How to protect yourself from financial fraud

Financial fraud and cybercrime is a growing problem in the UK, but a new report has revealed that many people are complacent when it comes to online security.

Of the 2,000 randomly selected British adults surveyed by Gocompare.com, more than a tenth of them (12 per cent) had fallen victim to fina…

Financial fraud and cybercrime is a growing problem in the UK, but a new report has revealed that many people are complacent when it comes to online security.

Of the 2,000 randomly selected British adults surveyed by Gocompare.com, more than a tenth of them (12 per cent) had fallen victim to financial fraud, while one in ten admitted that at least one of their online accounts had been hacked.

A third of respondents were worried about being a target of cybercriminals, yet two-thirds of the survey sample admitted to sharing personal information on social media, such as birthdays, anniversaries, names – details that are often used to create passwords and could be used by cybercriminals to prise a way into online accounts.

Some 12 per cent didn’t think their online passwords were strong enough, while a fifth admitted they need to get their passwords and PINs better organised.

More than one million incidents of financial fraud occurred in the first six months of 2016, according to the latest figures from national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre Financial Fraud Action UK. That’s 53 per cent more than in the first half of 2015.

Thankfully, Gocompare.com has backed this research up with tips on what consumers can do to protect themselves against the risk of financial fraud.

  • Create strong passwords by using a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Make sure you’ll be able to memorise it though, because writing down your password ups the potential for it to fall into the wrong hands. Avoid any obvious or easy to guess numbers, such as birth dates, anniversaries or consecutive, ascending or descending number sequences. Finally, don’t use the same password for all your online accounts.
  • If you receive an unsolicited email, text or phone call asking for credit or debit card numbers or PINs, it is most likely a scam and you should report it. Additionally, genuine organisations – such as your internet provider to any social media website – will never request information this way, but that doesn’t mean scamsters don’t try their luck anyway in the hope that their latest victim won’t be as clued-up.
  • Sign the back of a new payment card as soon as you receive it, and never let your card or card details out of sight when making a transaction.
  • On social media, never accept friend requests from people you don’t know and restrict what personal information is shared outside of your friend network using privacy settings. Also, when accessing your online financial accounts, type the web address into your browser manually. This cuts out the possibility of phishing scams.
  • Regularly update your computer’s firewall or antivirus software. When shopping online, always look for secure transaction symbols, which should appear in the web address bar. If possible, always shop or bank online from your personal computer and always log-off from a site once you’ve completed a transaction.
  • Check credit card and bank statements on a regular basis and keep an eye out for unusual or unauthorised transactions. Contact your provider immediately if you suspect anything fishy. Make a note of when you should be receiving a new payment card. If it doesn’t arrive when you expect it, contact the card provider as soon as possible.

Matt Sanders, head of money and protection at Gocompare.com, said: “Fraud can have a devastating impact on victims – both financially and emotionally – but there are some straightforward steps people can take to avoid falling prey to criminals.

“These include protecting their online devices with up-to-date virus software, creating different, strong passwords and PINs across accounts and recognising that their personal information is a valuable commodity and treating it as such.

“Financial fraud comes in many guises – from crooks using stolen credit cards to increasingly sophisticated digital scams – and once people appreciate how easy it can be for criminals to piece together personal data gleaned from online profiles, such as those shared on social media, they tend to be more cautious about openly sharing their personal information.”

By Amy White

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