At 3pm today, phones across the country will blast out a loud siren and show an alert on the display. The unique event is taking place so the UK government can test its new Emergency Alert system which is aimed at warning UK residents of impending issues such as extreme weather events.
Unless smartphones are switched off or users turn off the alert in their settings, every device in the country will be affected by the trial and that’s opening the floodgates for hackers trying to take advantage.
In fact, experts are now warning that the Emergency Alert test is the perfect smokescreen for crooks who want to try their luck at stealing personal data.
“Scammers will use any hook they can to try and steal money and personal information from victims, and unfortunately the government’s upcoming nationwide test of its new Emergency Alerts system will be no exception,” said Lisa Webb, Which? Scams Expert.
“It’s vital anyone who receives the official test alert is aware that no action is required. If you are asked to download an app or provide information, this is likely to be an unscrupulous fraudster trying to trick you and should be ignored at all costs.
“The government has said it will be including a website link with more information about the alerts in the message it sends out, but it’s worth considering looking this information up separately through the official government website rather than risking clicking on lookalike links from fraudsters.”
If you’re worried about becoming a victim of cyber crime then it’s vital to remember that the official test won’t affect your device until 3pm today.
Once the alert is released a message will appear on the screen that reads, “This is a test of Emergency Alerts, a new UK government service that will warn you if there’s a life-threatening emergency nearby. In an actual emergency, follow the instructions in the alert to keep yourself and others safe. Visit gov.uk/alerts for more information. This is a test. You do not need to take any action.”
An “OK” button can then be tapped to take the device back to the usual home screen.
If you see any other warning messages in your email inbox or WhatsApp alerts popping up on the display then it’s a good idea to ignore them as they could be a scam.
If you don’t want to take part in the test you can switch it off in the settings menu on your phone or simply turn off the device at 2:59pm.
To turn off the alerts on iPhone go to Settings > Notifications > then scroll to the bottom of the list and toggle off Extreme Alerts and Severe Alerts.
On Android simply search your settings for emergency alerts using the search icon. From the results, turn off severe and emergency alerts.
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