Online Fraud Terminology

The methods fraudsters are using to bypass online security are constantly changing – and so is the terminology. If you want to make sure your data and identity are more secure, it might useful to keep up-to-date with what all of this jargon means. Below, we’ve selected some commonly used words and phrases related to online fraud and explained what they mean.


An email-based scam that involves you seemingly being sent genuine looking emails from your bank, tax office, local council, etc. You might be asked to log in and fill out various forms requesting your personal information. This information can then be used to impersonate you online with the aim of committing identity fraud. You can learn more in our article on how to spot a phishing email.


This means ‘malicious software’. It’s designed to gain access to your computer or other devices to introduce a virus into your system – causing disruption to your network’s performance and security. This can happen when you visit an unsafe website, click on untrustworthy links or download an infected file.


A specific type of malware that limits or stops your computer’s screen or files from working unless a ransom is paid. It can also threaten to publish or delete your files if payment isn’t made.


As the name suggests, it’s software sent to spy on your computer to gather information about the way you browse and use the internet. It might search for personal data stored on your computer or track information you enter online. This information can then be sold to third party companies for marketing and sometimes for fraudulent reasons.


This is when a software program records the activity of the computer keyboard as you type. By gathering sensitive information, like passwords and bank details, keylogging can be used to build fake online profiles and carry out transactions without you knowing.

Data exposure

Whenever private information is seen by someone who should not have access, this is known as data exposure. It may also sometimes be referred to as a ‘data leak’ or ‘data breach’. It might happen by accident or be caused by hackers who do it to cause harm to the individual or organisation involved. It can be especially damaging to companies who store the credit card details and personal information of its customers.


A digital currency used to buy goods and services anonymously on the internet. Although bitcoin is a legal and authentic way to make purchases, the fact that it can be used anonymously makes it easier for criminals to buy and sell illegally acquired information and merchandise online. To find out more about what bitcoin is, there is plenty of information online about its regulation in the UK.

Dark web

This is a sub-level of the internet that normal search engines and everyday browsers cannot access. It’s an encrypted network that contain websites – both legal and illegal – that remain hidden from plain sight. You can learn more about how it works in this dark web infographic.

419 fraud

This is an old confidence scam that involves a stranger, possibly based overseas, gaining your trust and sympathy via some form of correspondence. In the past, this might have been by letter or over the phone, but nowadays it can happen via text messages, emails or social media. After a period of time has passed, the trickster may invent a series of emergencies that require you to send money to them.

Hidden URLs

This involves shortening URLs to make them seem appealing and more clickable, therefore hiding the true destination of the URL. These links usually take the form of prize wins or friend requests on social media platforms. Although link shortening is a genuine marketing and software tool, by clicking on links you don’t recognise, and from people you don’t know, you could be downloading malware or spyware onto your device.

If you are worried about the security of your personal data, your Equifax Credit Report & Score – which is free for the first 30 days then £14.95 monthly – includes WebDetect, which alerts you if it finds your personal data on websites used by fraudsters.

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