Scam Avoidance: A few ways to help stay secure

As the digital world has increased its presence in modern life, online fraud has also increased. The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau revealed a 33% increase in online dating fraud alone in 2014 from the previous year, with sufferers in the UK losing £34 million to scammers.

With scammers looking for more opportunities to take advantage, it is important to recognise possible scams, as well as knowing the best ways to avoid possible online fraud. Learn below some useful methods of computer safety and security to help prevent you from becoming a victim.

Passwords

Passwords can be primary targets for fraudsters, especially if they are written down and left out in the open. Memorising your password rather than recording it can help ensure that it is kept away from outside eyes.

Using names, places, or things related to you such as interests or hobbies may make it easier for someone to guess or steal your password. Having long, unique combinations of numbers and letters, both upper and lower case, can help prevent this from happening. Changing your password regularly can also be a good way to keep fraudsters from obtaining it.

Banks will never ask for your password or PIN – if you receive an email asking for this information, it may be an online fraudster and you should contact your bank as soon as possible.

Software and Security

Using antivirus software such as Norton or McAfee can add another layer of protection to your online behaviour, and it could detect external threats that you would not otherwise notice. Leaving your firewall switched on can also help – some operating systems, such as Windows, provide their own firewall.

Regularly updating your operating system and anti-virus software helps ensure that you have the latest protective technology, and that your computer is up-to-date on threats to your computer’s security.

When you enter personal information or payment details onto a website look for signs that the site is safe and secure:

  • The website URL begins with https, rather than http – the extra ‘s’ stands for secure.
  • The address bar is green, or has a green tick.
  • The address bar has a padlock next to the URL.

Emails

Online fraudsters may send you an email with a link or attachment – if the email looks suspicious, deleting it immediately could prevent your computer from being attacked or information from being stolen.

Suspicious emails can include emails with strangely phrased subject lines, or with offers that seem too good to be true – for example, a message that says “You have won the jackpot, all you have to do is click here to claim your prize!”

Replying to these emails, clicking on links, opening attachments, and giving personal information should be avoided.

Remote Access

Remote access is the ability to access a computer or network from another location. This can be useful for businesses and corporations when someone is away from the office but needs to access information. However, hackers and fraudsters may use this as a way to delve into a computer and steal information. It is therefore important to only allow remote access to trusted sources, if any at all.

Research Retailers

Before you make a purchase online, researching the website or retail company can help you confirm their legitimacy. You can check if a limited company (aside from sole traders) is registered on the official Companies House website. Finding details such as phone numbers, postal address and email addresses can also give you a point of contact should anything go wrong.

Avoid giving money to ‘pop-up’ charities. These are charities that open soon after a disaster has occurred which may be set up to take advantage of those giving to charity.

When donating money to charity ensure that the charity is registered to avoid giving money to a scam. Check for registered charities in England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland

Do not send money to people or organisations that you don’t know as there is no concrete way of knowing if they are trustworthy.

Bank Statements

Keeping close track of your monthly bank statements and credit card bills can help you notice any unusual numbers or transactions.  Shred paper statements before throwing away to prevent anyone from stealing your information.

Privacy Protection

There are a variety of ways that online scammers can target your personal information and finances, from hacking emails to stealing personal information. As these types of crimes have become a growing concern, it is increasingly important to be able to protect yourself and your information online – Learn more about privacy in the information age and online security, and check your credit report for any possible signs of identity theft.

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