Steps to reduce online fraud
Online fraud is a serious issue in the UK with over 5.8 million cases of cyber-crime reported and over £193bn stolen from consumers and householders each year. With the growth of online shopping, banking and emailing, online fraud can manifest in the following ways:
- Having a loan taken out in your name
- Stolen credit card or bank details
- Making purchases with your credit card
- Taking payment without delivering the good
- Stealing sensitive or private information
We provide a number of simple steps you can follow to reduce online fraud:
Strengthen your password
One of the most basic and important things you can do is strengthen your password for your important logins such as email, social media, computer and online banking. Not only should you make your password more unique and difficult to guess by adding capital letters, numbers and characters, you should also be using several different passwords for all your logins.
This is because if someone has your email address and password, they can potentially access your Facebook, Amazon, Paypal account and more. But having different passwords means that you are reducing the risk across all of your accounts.
Whilst making a note of all your passwords can be worthwhile, it is important that this is stored in a safe place and not under a file on your computer called ‘Passwords.’ If a fraudster were to get hold of your computer or email account, they could potentially have access to your personal details which is very dangerous.
In addition, regular Internet users should avoid saving their passwords to different systems and log out after every session. Although it takes longing to manually enter your username and password each time, it is common to see people stay logged in at the Apple Store or Internet Cafes and by doing so, you are giving people easy access to all your personal information.
Beware suspicious looking emails
The average person receives dozens of emails a day and that includes lots of junk mail. It is common to receive emails from unknown sources offering you the deal of a lifetime – but if it is too good to be true, it is probably fake. Avoid clicking on any links or responding to these types of emails as it could put your online security at risk
If you receive emails with a payment receipt for something that you never bought (e.g Paypal or Apple Store), do not respond and instead make sure you report this to the official company who will investigate this further.
Check your credit report
You can check whether someone is trying to apply for a loan in your name or using your card details by checking your credit report regularly. There are several credit reference agencies in the UK and companies where you can check your credit report. There are free trials available or it will cost just a few pounds a month and you will be able to log in and see your credit transactions at any time.
The credit report will notify you by email or text message as soon as your credit report has been checked by a lender. If you have made an application then it is nothing to worry about, but if a fraudster has acquired your card details and is making several applications, you can consider cancelling your card or contacting the authorities.
Check that a site is legitimate
With so many different companies on Google, it is sometimes hard to know which sites are legitimate and not. Whether you are shopping for clothes online or applying for a loan, you need to check that the company is genuine or you are potentially handing them all your personal details and spending money on something that may not arrive.
Check if the site is hosted on a secure server which means that it will start with https rather than http. This is a good sign and gives the website added levels of security and your information will be encrypted, making it harder to access from external sources.
Next, see if there are any reviews for the company by checking if they have any star ratings on their website from the likes of Feefo, Reviews.co.uk or Trustpilot. If you can click through and see that these reviews are legitimate and from real customers, you will have peace of mind that it is a safe company.
Companies should also display their company number in the terms and conditions and sometimes on the footer of every page. For companies that offer loans with a guarantor, they also show their consumer credit license number and FCA number too which you can cross check on the FCA website to confirm the company is legitimate. This will confirm their status and assure you that your private details will be safe.
Dealing with sensitive information
One way to look out for fraud is to check your bank statement regularly and go through each payment one-by-one. Whether it is your debit or credit card, fraudsters will commonly try take small but frequent payments out of your account because these are more likely to go unnoticed. Therefore, it is important that you check every transaction and raise anything suspicious with your card issuer.
To reduce your risks further, you can shred any documents that have any personal information on them including name, address and card details. On this note, you opt to receive your bank statements completely online rather than receiving statements in the post each month and avoid having to deal with them manually. This is something you can arrange by contacting your card issuer or changing the settings on your online banking.
Get protection with each payment method
When shopping online, there are various ways to protect your payment – so if the new dress that you ordered is not delivered, you can get a refund.
Using Paypal, you can arrange the payment to go through only once the good has been delivered. Or if you have already paid, you can contest the payment with Paypal’s team who should be able to refund you.
There are also credit cards that come with protection. The Aqua credit card is an example that refunds you if your card has been stolen and unauthorized payments have been made.
Call Action Fraud
If you have been the victim of cyber-crime or online fraud, you can contact Action Fraud for help. Rather than call the police, Action Fraud are the UK’s national reporting centre for such incidents. You can visit them at www.actionfraud.police.uk or call 0300 123 2040.