Credit card giant Visa shares five dangerous tricks online criminals use in texts and social media


Visa is encouraging people to learn more about the language of fraud by helping them spot common strategies often used by fraudsters which could help them feel more confident when shopping online.

New research commissioned by Visa shows that four in five (80%) UK consumers now make purchases online at least once a month.

However, with the majority (55%) of those who have received fraudulent messages seeing an increase in the last year, and the average internet user targeted twice a week by online crooks, it’s more important than ever that people are able to spot a potential scam

Persuasive language and unusual spelling and grammar are widely recognized as common signs of fraud, but new analysis by researchers from the Aston Institute for Forensic Linguistics (AIFL), has identified the communicative strategies used by fraudsters in short, one-off messages.

Among the examples of fraud analysed, which included text messages, emails and social media posts, it was discovered that inviting the recipient to click a link was the most common technique (87%).

This was followed by asking the reader to resolve a ‘problem’ (72%), such as rearranging package delivery times or paying a late fee and highlighting unique offers (32%).

Supporting these findings, the researchers found ‘click here’, ‘account information’ and ‘gift card’ to be the most commonly used phrases in fraudulent communications.

To better protect customers, Visa has teamed up with researchers from AIFL to analyze the language of fraud and create the upcoming ‘Fraudulese Report’, a collection of the most common words, phrases and tactics used by fraudsters in short, one-off messages.

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Dr Marton Petyko, Aston Institute for Forensic Linguistics, said: “Our analysis is the first study of its kind that provides insight into how language is used by fraudsters in short, one-off messages, and is an important contribution to better understanding the things people should look out for when receiving unsolicited messages.

“By highlighting the communicative strategies, words and phrases used by fraudsters, we hope people can more easily spot the language of fraud as it stands today, which ultimately helps to protect them.”

Mandy Lamb, Managing Director, UK & Ireland at Visa, added: “As we’re all spending more time online, it’s good to be aware of what we can do to keep ourselves safe.

“Our new study demonstrates how it can be hard to spot the signs of fraud in emails, texts and messages, that’s why we’re raising awareness of ‘Fraudulese’ and sharing our top tips for spotting the signs, so everyone has the tools to avoid falling victim.”

Visa’s top tips for spotting potential fraud

Spell-check messages

Inconsistencies in the language used in a message, such as errors in grammar and spelling, or differences between the sender’s name and the URL link provided, could indicate it’s a fraud.

If you receive a message from a company or individual out of the blue, be vigilant in checking for these errors.

Be cautious of urgent actions

Language encouraging you to take urgent action is a common tactic used in bogus communications.

Look out for phrases like ‘send (…) here’ or ‘click (…) below’, or undated timeframes such as ‘in 48 hours’ or ‘by tomorrow morning’.

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Always take the time to consider whether the message is genuine. If you think it’s fake, it’s important not to click on any links to avoid compromising your personal information.

Watch out for suspicious asks

Fraudsters often entice you by either highlighting a problem such as asking you to rearrange a delivery or making a tempting offer.

Think about your recent dealings with that organization or individual – if you don’t recognize the problem you’re being asked to resolve or the offer they’re trying to get you to react to, it might be fraud.

If you’re unsure, don’t click on any links or contact the sender in any way.

Validate the sender’s identity

Fraudsters often work hard to convince you of their credibility, sometimes using words and phrases that you might find in genuine communications.

It can be hard to tell the difference, so if you are unsure, you can check by using a different form of communication to the one they have used to reach you. For example, if you get a text asking for bank information, try emailing or web chatting the company directly to check if it’s a true request.

Check the message with someone you trust

People can be great at understanding language and communication in social contexts. It may sound obvious, but if you’re unsure about the legitimacy of a message, it can help to discuss it with someone you trust. They may have also received a similar message and might be able to help advise on the best course of action to take. Sharing your experience might save someone else from falling victim too.

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As a network working to protect payments, Visa states that it is committed to tackling fraud to help everyone pay with confidence.



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In the unfortunate event that something does go wrong, Visa’s Zero Liability Policy means you won’t be held responsible for unauthorized or fraudulent charges made with your account, so you can shop confidently, knowing your online payments are protected.

If you are targeted by a fraudster, to help others avoid falling victim you can report it to Cifas, Action Fraud or Police Scotland via 101.

If you think you have been a victim of fraud, contact your bank as soon as possible.

To keep up to date with the latest money news, join our Money Saving Scotland Facebook group here, follow Record Money on Twitter hereor subscribe to our twice weekly newsletter here.




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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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