More and more people are making purchases online in the UK, as well as opting for email over traditional paper post. This naturally means that the risk of online fraud is very real and more so than ever before. In 2016, the National Audit Office explained in a report that there were an estimated 1.9m incidents of cyber-fraud in the United Kingdom, and over £10bn was lost in fraud from individuals overall in the UK.
The UK Parliament have expressed concerns about the severity of online fraud and cyber-crime. Andrew Tyrie MP said that “The lines of responsibility and accountability for reducing cyber threats remain opaque” and that “it is essential that the intelligence community, regulators and wider Government are coordinated in making sure that financial cyber-crime has a high priority, and is not subordinate to other work”.
Online fraud can be found in the form of:
- Identify Fraud
- Stolen bank details
- Taking out loans using your name
- Stealing sensitive information
- Making purchases with your card details
- Hacking into your devices; laptop, computer, tablet or mobile phone.
This guide aims to alert people at home how to protect themselves of these forms of online fraud.
Beware of the suspicious emails you receive
On average, we receive dozens of emails a day, including spam emails – sometimes these emails somehow mysteriously find their way into your normal inbox. Fraud emails will try and pose themselves as genuine and normal looking emails from known companies.
For example, you may receive an email telling you that an item has been bought on your Amazon account, and if you did not purchase it, to please click on the link. The link is obviously dangerous and is normally a redirection or will ask you to put in your username, password or credit card details, which can then be stolen. Do not open any links or any attachments in emails you do not trust, as these may be harmful.
Make sure your password is strong
Victims of fraud often learn the hard way when it comes to password strength. To strengthen your password, try and make it as unique as possible, therefore it is harder to guess. Furthermore, you should include capitals, number combinations and even symbols such as “!” or “&”, for example.
It is important to never use the exact same password for all of your accounts, especially your email accounts and bank account. Using the same theme is okay, but make sure you change the capitals, numbers and symbols so that they do not match or too heavily resemble your many other passwords to your several other accounts. This means that if someone were to get hold of one of your passwords, you would have an added sense of security knowing that the others are different.
Try avoid saving passwords on your devices which have your bank details saved onto, e.g your ASOS account. Furthermore, never save your passwords on devices which are not yours; whether that is at work or in a computer store, internet café or on a public computer as anyone can access your accounts that way.
When shopping online, there are plenty of payment methods that come with fraud protection. Purchasing goods through PayPal allows you to get a reimbursement if the product is counterfeit or not delivered to you. You can also cleverly choose to have your account debited only if and when your item is successfully delivered.
As touched on, try and avoid saving your card details onto online shopping outlets. It can make the process quick and convenient, but can also mean that someone could purchase or steal from your bank card without much information.
Look out for reviews and secure websites
When we are shopping online, we are likely to come across a number of different websites. The same thing applies to when we look and apply for financial products such as credit cards and loans, for example. However, the desire to make a fast application or purchase can cause us to give our very personal details to a potentially dangerous or fraudulent company.
To check that a site is legitimate, look on the internet and Trustpilot for customer reviews, as this will give you an idea of the site’s credibility. If the company cannot be found or even just has no reviews at all, this could be a sign to avoid that particular company altogether.
In addition, you should check that the website you are visiting is being hosted on a secure server, which will always 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 hard to access by external parties.
Check your credit file
To access your credit file, you will need to sign up for an account with Check My File, Noodle, Experian or one of the several other companies that offer this service. Some providers may charge a monthly fee to access your credit report. You can also receive an email and/or text message alert if there appears to be any suspicious activity at all 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 available to check your credit score here.
It is also heavily advised that you check your debit and credit card statements regularly, say once a month, for any suspicious activity. Fraud is normally manifested in lots of small amounts, so the idea is that it would hopefully (for the one committing fraud) go unnoticed by you or your bank etc. Therefore, it is extremely important to double check any payment you receive, large or small. If you notice anything suspicious or unusual, always alert your credit card or debit card company immediately.
How to report fraud
If you think you have been a victim of online fraud, you can contact Action Fraud for help as they are the UK’s national reporting centre. Call them on 0300 1232040, or visit their website.