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Fighting fraud online

By NatWest Bank on 30 Dec, 2014

Fraud is one of those things that you probably tell yourself won’t happen to you, however, as it cost the British public more than £600 million in 2013, it’s a serious issue that we should all be aware of. When you think of the term ‘fraud’, your mind may conjure up images of cunning criminals making counterfeit cheques and forging signatures but, in reality, there’s a lot more to it than that. The term ‘fraud’ covers a whole range of scams and attacks that can take place through number of different means, including online.

It’s no surprise that with its continuous rise in popularity, online shopping ‘appears at the top of the most common types of fraud, costing the UK over £163m in 2013. Unlike when you shop on the high street, when making a transaction online you’re not expected to enter a PIN. This means that if a criminal gets hold of your details, they’re free to buy goods online without even needing your card. This shouldn’t put you off from benefitting from the convenience of shopping online though as there are a number of things you can do to ensure you remain safe from fraudsters.

Firstly, try and avoid making payments at internet cafes or at any other shared computer, as well as avoiding Wi-Fi hotspots as these networks may not be secure.  If you do need to make a purchase via one of these methods, make sure that you logout of everything when you’re done to stop any opportunistic thieves from using your accounts to buy things for themselves.

On your own personal computer, make sure that you have legitimate anti-virus software installed for an added layer of protection. Also sign up for either ‘Verified by Visa’ or ‘Mastercard Secure Code’ which are systems that will add an authentication step when making online transactions. These systems will ask you to input certain digits of your PIN or a chosen password for added security. Before you even make a payment though, look to check the site you’re actually making the payment through is secure itself. You can identify this by looking at the start of the web address of the page you’re on. If it starts with ‘https’ instead of just ‘http’ it’s an indicator that you are in a secure session.

It’s not just via online shopping where fraudsters can catch you out. Online banking is yet another convenient service which has grown hugely in popularity in recent years and criminals have also learnt to adapt to these changes in technology. These fraudsters are looking to gain access to your bank account details in any way that they can, whether through malware, phishing or even smishing. All these terms sound pretty complicated but an understanding of what they mean is important so that you can avoid falling for these tricks.

Malware is a shortened version of the term ‘malicious software.’ It’s software that’s designed to gather and steal your personal information, including your online banking passwords and even your credit card details. You might download this software accidentally through a spam email or from visiting an infected site. Sometimes, even if you have anti-virus installed, it’s ineffective against malware as criminals are continuously trying to stay one step ahead. What you can do, however, is make sure your anti-virus software is updated to the latest version and ensure you download security updates called ‘patches’ in order to protect the software on your computer from threats. Avoid opening any suspicious looking emails, especially any that come with an attachment. If you suspect it’s not a legitimate email, just delete it.

It’s emails such as this which are part of what is called phishing. What you think is a genuine email from your bank could actually be an email with the intention of tricking you into giving away your personal details. Don’t respond and if you’re unsure contact your bank. Never click on any links contained within the email and definitely don’t open any attachments.

However, it’s not just your computer that can be infected with malware. Apps on your mobile and tablet are also at risk. So, before you download, make sure you read reviews and check that the app has a fair few ratings to help you determine how legitimate it really is.

Another trick to watch out for on your phone is smishing. Smishing is similar to phishing except it occurs via texts on your mobile. If you receive a text asking for your bank details you should ignore it. Your bank would never ask for your full account details, no matter what method of communication they’re using. Finally, any telephone number that you receive in a text such as this should be ignored as it may be the number of a criminal who’s after your details.

NatWest has created the ‘How to Fight Fraud’ tool which you can find here to assist you.  With data from Financial Fraud Action UK, the tool explores the eleven most common types of fraud and covers what these types of fraud entail. Through understanding more about fraud, hopefully we can learn how to protect ourselves and hopefully reduce the amount of fraud that takes place in the future.