Protect your personal data from spam texts and emails as £1.7billion lost to scams in 12 months

IF you have ever received a spam text or email, it is likely your private details are being sold on the secretive “dark web”.

Criminals are flogging millions of people’s personal data — including email addresses, passwords, phone numbers, date of birth and even full credit card details — all for as little as 98p.

The data is normally stolen by hackers targeting companies with weaknesses in their security systems.

It is then sold on the dark web, the shadowy part of the internet not indexed by search engines.

A total of £1.7billion has been lost to scams over the past year, according to Action Fraud.

Hackers steal such huge amounts of data that two in three people using a new data-breach checking tool found their own private information for sale online.

Links can install viruses

The typical victim has had their email address stolen by hackers four times and their password compromised three times, says Individual Protection Solutions (IPS), which launched the tool.

When a Sun reporter entered their personal email address into IPS’s data-breach checker, they found their details, including passwords, were caught up in nine different breaches and for sale on the web.

Their private data was stolen when hackers targeted networking site LinkedIn, online file-storage site Dropbox and health app MyFitnessPal between 2012 and 2018, the tool said.

Hackers bundle together all the information they have on an individual then sell it via the dark web to fraudsters, who use it to target people for scams.

Criminals buy the information and use it to create “phishing” emails or texts, which look like they are from legitimate organisations.

But links in messages divert targets to websites which look genuine but trick victims into divulging further personal details or transferring money.


FRAUD expert Charlie Shakeshaft’s top tips for keeping secure online:

  1. Change your passwords. Make them all different, lengthy and with a range of characters. Use a password manager to keep track.
  2. Use two-factor authentication. Employ two devices to log in to a site, such as entering a password on your laptop and a code on your phone.
  3. Do not hand over your details. Where possible, shop online as a “guest” rather than via an account. Don’t subscribe to newsletters, as they add your email to a database.
  4. Beware of public wifi. It is often not encrypted, so scammers can use it to steal passwords and private information. Instead, use your phone’s data.
  5. Keep your device up to date. Many updates include security fixes, helping to block known hacking loopholes.

Emails can also contain attachments or links designed to install viruses on a target’s computer and steal their passwords.

Fraudsters sometimes even send messages pretending to be from an organisation that has suffered a recent hack.

One of this year’s most successful phishing scams involved thousands of people receiving texts claiming they had an outstanding payment to make regarding a Royal Mail parcel.

Another scam asked people to call a number because of a tax-fraud claim on an HMRC account.

Fraud expert Charlie Shakeshaft, who founded IPS, said: “There has been an explosion of scams during the pandemic.

“They damage the emotional wellbeing of victims, particularly those who rely on technology to stay in touch. But most people do not know how to protect themselves.”

‘No time to see red flags’

DRAMA student Emmeline Hartley, 28, received a text just before her birthday saying she owed a small fee for a parcel.

She assumed it was for a present and entered the details requested. But her phone number had been sold on the dark web to scammers posing as Royal Mail.

Emmeline, from North London, soon received a call claiming to be her bank, saying the text was fake and she had been scammed.

But that call too was part of a scam. She was told to move her money into another account to “make it safe”. She transferred £1,000 – which was then stolen.

Emmeline said: “I was in survival mode and didn’t have time to look at the red flags.” After a stressful battle, her bank eventually refunded her.

Some scams chiefly target older people but Emmeline believes younger people are just as vulnerable.


iPad Pro
From £999,

PROS: Amazing performance, stunning display, great battery life.

CONS: Expensive, keyboard accessory pricey, 11in screen has less brilliant display.

TECH SPECS: 12.9in display: 281 x 215 x 6.4mm, 682g. 11in display: 248 x 179 x 5.9mm, 466g. Both tablets: 12MP wide and 10MP ultra-wide rear cameras, 12MP ultra-wide front camera, LiDAR scanner for better photos, Face ID unlock.

So, what’s different about it? It looks pretty similar to the last one: It looks identical to last year’s – until you turn it on. The larger model uses a new technology called miniLED that transforms how it looks.

Instead of having one backlight, it has more than 1,000. That means it has punchier colours, deep black hues and amazing contrast.

So it’s great for watching movies, especially HDR content, which shows detail in dark shadows and bright highlights at the same time. Sound is also excellent thanks to four strong speakers mounted on the edges.

It is also the first iPad to have 5G connectivity if you choose the model with cellular compatibility.

How about the smaller display model? The 11in display still looks good but has a conventional screen (but costs £250 less). It also has the great speakers and 5G option.

Is it fast? Oh yes. The performance on this tablet is as fast as a high-end computer. Not that surprising as it shares the same M1 chip found in the new iMac. You can even make it work like a regular computer by adding a keyboard, like the brilliant Magic Keyboard.

Is it really magic? No, but it looks great with an adjustable backlight, superbly comfortable keys and a built-in trackpad. However, it is expensive: £279 for the 11in model, and £329 for the larger tablet.

All this power, is it overkill? The phenomenal performance drives the most demanding apps such as Photoshop and video-editing ones.

The truth is, for most people, it’s more than is needed and the excellent iPad Air is powerful enough and costs £420 less than the 12.9in iPad Pro.

But as developers start to make the most of the available power, more apps will benefit from the Pro.

Games, for instance, could look awesome with this kind of processor powering them and more serious apps could gain lots of extra features. If you need something ultra-fast, and you don’t mind the high ticket price, the new iPad Pro is sensational.

Nokia’s good for the earth

Nokia X20, £299.99,

NOKIA’S latest mobile is not just about being a top phone, it’s about the environment, too.

Each purchase will see 20 trees being planted. It also comes with a 100 per cent compostable case and a three-year guarantee. The main rear camera has a 64MP sensor, but there are also three other cameras and you can even shoot on two at the same time to take different viewpoints of the same scene.

Selfies look great thanks to a 32MP front-facing camera. The front of the phone is all screen (the fingerprint sensor is usefully mounted on the side) and, like many Nokia phones, it’s very well built.

It even comes with three years of software updates – many Android phones only get two years. As with a lot of phones now, there’s no charger in the box, which is also good for the earth.

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