Be Safe On The Line

Regardless of the rise in internet communication sites such as Facebook and Twitter, for many of us telephones are still the go-to communication device.

Whether for business or in our private lives it is easy to pass on a telephone number and quick to let our fingers do the dialling. And let’s face it, sometimes a conversation is much easier to manage a series of message exchanges.

However, it is said that familiarity breeds contempt and we shouldn’t therefore fall into the trap of confusing ease-of-use with total safety. In fact, two reports have come to our attention within the last week, both of which highlight the dangers which telephony can bring.

The first report comes from the Child Accident Prevention Trust. According to their research nearly a quarter of children’s accidents occur when parents are engrossed on mobile phones. This ‘telephone comes first attitude’ has also rubbed off onto children with 15% of youngsters having been involved in accidents or near misses while engrossed on their phones.

Commenting on the report the Trust’s CEO Katrina Phillips said “Serious accidents happen in seconds, often while we’re distracted, and mobiles are seriously distracting.” Although the report concentrates on mobile distraction dangers which may affect children, it is a lesson which could equally apply in other spheres. Even in the workplace, how many of us have failed to complete a task safely or securely because we have been distracted by a ringing phone?

The second report is equally alarming and again has implications both for the home and the workplace. Research released jointly by Get Safe Online and TalkTalk reveals that we are twice as likely to receive a landline call from a scammer than from a friend. Even allowing for the fact that our friends may get in touch via mobile rather than landline, the figures are still alarming.

The report also reveals that 2.5 million households in the UK received a scam call last month and that 42% of those surveyed admitted they would struggle to spot a scam call. In response to the survey Get Safe Online has launched an awareness and education program called ‘Beat the scammers.’ Those with elderly relatives may well wish to run through some of the key points of the programme with them in order to help them to stay safe in the home.

As fraudsters are becoming more sophisticated it isn’t enough to simply refuse to answer any call unless it comes from a known friend or relative whose voice you recognise, but it is worth treating any other cold calls, or those which purport to come from an official body such as a bank, with scepticism. However, whilst it may be comparatively straightforward to become scam aware within our own homes, spotting potentially fraudulent calls within an office situation is not always as easy.

Quite simply, you aren’t going to know and recognise the telephone voices of all of your customers and suppliers, let alone correctly interpret potential scam calls from those who pretend to represent official bodies. There are however a few simple rules which will help to cut down on potential instances of fraud, including the golden rule of never handing out bank details or passwords. And then of course there are the other simple rules which are that if it seems too good to be true it probably is and if something doesn’t feel quite right then you need to investigate.

With regular awareness training businesses can help to reduce the chances of fraudsters obtaining valuable information or payments through telephone scams. As with the telephone distraction warnings, taking a few minutes to stop and think before acting can make a measurable difference.

Written by Alison