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Any medical professional will agree that health checks are extremely important to make sure everything is working as it should. The same goes for your cyber health. With the amount of information we entrust on our computer, smart phone and stored on online accounts, it’s crucial to make sure you know that companies are doing everything they can to protect your personal details from falling into the wrong hands.
The problem is widespread
Cyber crime is affecting more and more people with the latest figures showing that a record 172,919 identity frauds were recorded in 2016 more than in any other previous year. Cifas, the UK’s leading fraud prevention service says that identity fraud now represents over half of all fraud recorded by the UK’s not-for-profit fraud data sharing organisation (53.3% of all frauds recorded to Cifas), of which 88% was perpetrated online.
A recent study questioned 500 adults about their views on the future of personal banking. Some 82% believed that the threat posed by online fraudsters is “bigger than ever before”, with 76% blaming banks and building societies for failing to provide better security. Almost a quarter (19%) in the survey by Moneymagpie.com expect that it is only a matter of time before their bank account is compromised in some way.
The vast majority of identity fraud happens when a fraudster pretends to be from a reputable company (perhaps even your bank) and uses a number of tactics to get you to part with your log in and passwords.
One of many cons is where customers are cold-called by a fraudster or sent a text message warning about fraud on their bank account and told to call a phone number. During the telephone conversation, individuals concerned about the safety of their cash are duped into divulging details allowing crooks to remotely access to their PC and all the passwords and account numbers stored on it. With this at their fingertips they can simply drain your accounts.
Yet with more and more banking apps as well as those designed to make life easier and view all of your accounts in one place, there’s even more opportunity for fraudsters to get their hands on your money.
How can you be sure that information stored online is safe?
Generally speaking most internet banking providers invest heavily in the security of their mobile applications.
A spokesman for Financial Fraud Action UK said: “Banks take the protection of their customer accounts extremely seriously and continuously invest in new, innovative security tools. They also regularly test the robustness of their security systems. The Payments Services Directive 2 will introduce further security requirements from 2018.
“There is a range of national and European legal and regulatory security standards under which all banks operate. Banks use ever more sophisticated ways of authenticating customers, such as using biometrics and customer behaviour analysis. Each financial institution will employ the most appropriate range of fraud prevention and detection methods to suit their customers, whilst ensuring transactions continue to be fast and convenient. From next year there will be further European standards on customer authentication.”
There’s also a level of safety on credit card usage through the PCIDSS, which is the worldwide Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard that was set up to help businesses process card payments securely and reduce card fraud.
The payment standard has 12 high level requirements all aimed at keeping consumer information safe.
With an explosion in the number of apps and websites designed to manage your money from your computer or smart phone, there have been more concerns about security. There are apps which allow you to view the balances on all of your current, credit and savings account in one place, which requires typing in all of your accounts numbers and passwords into one app. This might ring alarm bells to the more cautious among us. The companies that do have proper security measures will be encrypting all your sensitive data - they convert information into a complex code that's difficult to decipher.
Read the security and privacy disclosure information on individual websites and you can always contact the provider directly and ask for more information. You can then weigh up whether you feel comfortable handing over personal details.
It’s not just up to companies and websites, of course. If you are nervous about security then there are a number of measures you can take to ensure that you prevent being a victim of fraud.
Here’s our seven-point checklist:
1. Get your computer in shape
Protect your computer from viruses which can remotely monitor what you’re doing, as well as personal information and transactions made. Start by installing quality anti-virus software. You should also protect your wireless network by using an encryption or password to stop other people using your access. It is important to make sure your computer is up to date and you are using the latest version of your web browser as this will make it harder for internet thieves to get into your computer in the first place.
2. Keep your phone safe
Switch on your phone's passcode, password or pin security lock so that only you can unlock it every time you go to use your phone. You should also keep the operating system and apps updated with the latest versions. You can do this in your phone settings.
3. Don’t be lazy with passwords
Many people are guilty of using the same password for all their online accounts so they can’t forget it and be locked out. This is risky should a hacker manage to access one of your accounts as they would then have access to all. Choose complicated passwords and change them frequently.
4. Be cautious when you’re out and about
Don't bank or use your financial apps on public wi-fi, such as the wireless connection you get at an airport. Public wi-fi is easy to hack according to experts.
5. Be sure you’re shopping safely
You can check a secure connection on the page where you type in your payment details by looking at the browser address which changes from “http” to “https” to indicate. You can also look for a padlock or an unbroken key symbol. Also, do not pay for items, such as tickets, direct from your bank account in return for a discount on the price. This can indicate that the seller is a fraudster.
6. Don’t be duped into phoning a thief
Always call the number on the back of your bank card, not a number in a text message or email. An official bank call will never ask for your password or security codes in full.
7. Invest in a shredder
Even if you have opted for paperless accounts you might still get correspondence from your bank or other financial institutions. Don’t bin anything that contains private information unless it’s been through the shredder first.
Think you have been scammed?
Contact your bank immediately and you can report your case to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
What is Money Means?
Money Means is a news and information series written by independent financial and consumer journalists and experts*. FSCS launched Money Means in 2016 to help give people clear and useful information about personal finance, to increase their understanding and confidence when dealing with money.
*THE VIEWS EXPRESSED IN MONEY MEANS ARE OF THE WRITERS AND NOT OF FSCS AND SHOULD NOT BE REGARDED AS ADVICE.