With UK households making more and more purchases online and using email more than traditional post, the risk of online fraud is very real. In 2014, a report by Info Security Magazine showed that the UK lost over £670 million in the form of cyber-crime, a figure that is increasing year-upon-year.
Online fraud can consist of the following:
- Stolen bank details
- Identity fraud
- Taking out loans in your name
- Making purchases with your card details
- Stealing sensitive information
- Taking payment without delivering the good
- Hacking into your computer
Our guide aims to show how people at home can protect themselves from the dangers of online fraud.
Strengthen your password
Several fraud victims learn that it is important to make your password more unique and harder to guess.
Not only should you make your password more specific to include capital letters, numerical values and even special characters, it is also worth mixing up your password for different accounts and logins. The reason for this is that once someone has your email address and password, they may also be able to access your Facebook, Gmail, Hotmail account, Amazon account and more. But having different passwords will mean that you will still have some security in place if someone dangerous gets hold of your password.
Weak Password: jim123
Strong Password: Jim123!?
Furthermore, regular internet users should avoid saving their passwords to devices that are not their own, whether it’s at work, the Apple store or Internet cafes. Before you know it, the next user that logs in can have access to all your information.
One of the most basic things you can do is have a password or pin code for your mobile or tablet. Although it is a bit annoying to re-enter it all the time, a lot of people go without it and it can really expose you and your information if it gets in the wrong hands.
Beware suspicious looking emails
The average person receives dozens of emails a day and several spam emails too. Apparently around 30% of our emails are spam – how about that for numbers?
Suspicious emails will try pose themselves as normal looking companies or ones that you already work with. It is important that you take your time with any suspicious looking emails and avoid clicking on any links or opening any attachments.
Similarly, you must be vary of ‘phishing,’ where scammers will try to access personal or sensitive information by asking for credit card numbers, usernames and passwords. It is typical for the email to pose as one of your credit or utility providers and state that something is wrong with your account or because they want to offer you an exclusive deal.
A clever method (below) is to hover over a link and if it looks like it is being redirected to a foreign or spammy link, this is a good indication to stay well clear of it.
However, you have to consider that if a deal is too good to be true, it is probably not real. If you think it is legitimate, it is worth going through the official company website or phone number for confirmation.
Check for reviews and secure websites
When we do online shopping for things like electronics and clothes, we are likely to come across a number of different websites. The same applies when we apply for financial products such as credit cards and even when we compare guarantor loans. However, the desire to make a fast application or purchase can cause us to give our very personal details to a potentially dangerous company.
To check that a site is legitimate, it is worth looking on Google or money websites for some independent reviews as this will give you an idea of their credibility. If the company has no reviews or cannot be found, this could be a sign to avoid them altogether.
In addition, you should look out for their website being hosted on a secure server which will begin with https. This is an added security feature that is not available to all websites. This means that your details are encrypted so they will be harder to access by external parties and gives you and your data that extra level of security. Our website has a secure server (https) to protect all our users and customers:
Your payment methods
If you are shopping online, there are certain payment methods that come with fraud protection e.g aqua credit card. Also, shopping with PayPal will allow you to get a reimbursement if the product is counterfeit or not delivered. You can also choose to have your account debited only if the item is delivered, so that you are not paying anything until your new dress or golf shoes have arrived.
Most credit cards come with the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, giving you up to £75,000 worth of refunds for anything fraud related. However, it is important to see the terms and conditions of your credit card provider to see when this is applicable.
Check your credit file
You can access your credit file by signing up for an account with Experian, Noddle, Checkmyfile and several other companies. Costing only a few pounds a month, you will receive an email and text alert if there is any suspicious activity on your credit account such as a credit check or someone trying to take out a loan in your name. There are also free trials to check your credit score here.
In the same way, it is advisable to check your debit and credit card statements every month for any suspicious activity. Fraud is usually manifest in lots of small amounts so that it goes unnoticed by many people. So it is important to double check any payment you receive big or small and alert your credit card company immediately.
Beware Suspicious Phone Calls
Some fraudsters looking to enter your bank account may try with emails and text messages. One thing they will never do is ask for your PIN code as this is confidential – so if you have your eyes open and know that they won’t ask for this, you will be wary and less likely to fall for anything.
They sometimes ask you to reset your account or give you a new code, but again, be very conscious of this kind of thing.
Call Action Fraud
If you have been the victim of cyber-crime or online fraud, you can contact Action Fraud for help as they are the UK’s national reporting centre. You can visit them at www.actionfraud.police.uk or call 0300 123 2040.