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Watch out for banking scammers

By Chris Smith on 06 Dec, 2016

We truly live in the age of the internet. Thanks to widespread connectivity and the mass adoption of smartphone technology, we can order plane tickets whilst in bed, or buy a sofa on the train to work. This digital revolution hasn’t come without its consequences, however.

Hackers and fraudsters are becoming ever more adept at formulating ways of stealing bank details and getting access to your accounts. The internet makes banking easy and convenient, but unfortunately the system isn’t watertight from criminals, and if you’re not careful, you can be at risk.

There are a great number of comparison sites out there that are designed to help people get the best deals of loans and mortgages. Over the last decade companies like Compare the Market and Money Supermarket have gained enormous popularity due to their software which takes offers on insurance and mortgages from a number of providers, and shows customers where to find the best deal. 

What these sites require to calculate what your payments will be can be certain personal details such as your address, name, age etc. If, however, you find yourself on a site or getting emails asking you for sort-code and bank account number, then alarm bells should start ringing. This practice is referred to as phishing, and millions have been scammed the world over by unwittingly submitting their bank details to people who are looking to take money from your bank account. If you’re doing online research into finances, here are a number of habits and checks to keep you safe;

- When you’re using comparison sites, or on your bank’s website, look out for the green padlock in your browser’s address bar to ensure the domain you’re on is secure. This is highlighted by the web address beginning with ‘https://’, instead of ‘http://’.

- Where possible, use comparison tools such as mortgage calculators on your own bank’s website. You’ll know this is a source you trust and you won’t be giving your details to any third parties.

- Avoid “password strength tester” websites that ask you to enter a password, then give you details on how strong it is. Though some of these sites are legitimate, some can track your IP address then use the password you ‘tested’ to hack into the accounts you use this password for.

- Think before you post certain information on social networks. You might have seen some of the posts that go around on the likes of Facebook and Twitter that ask you to put the name of your first pet and the street you grew up on together to give you a ‘rockstar name’ or something similar. This can result in lots of memorable information being complied, and many banks use this sort of info to verify accounts. Bare this in mind before putting information on a public forum.

- Be on the lookout for imitations of websites that you might otherwise trust. The scammers have become very proficient in making faithful recreations of common banking websites in an effort to steal your details. This can include stealing logos. These are often hosted on sites with a misspelled url, so barclays.com might be barcalys.com, for example.  The practice is known as typosquatting, but you can avoid falling for this trap by keeping your commonly used financial sites saved as bookmarks.

As you can see, with the digital revolution, the fraudsters have become ever more adept at trying to steal our details. Using guides like this one, and others on this site should help you keep one step ahead, and allow you to use online banking to its full potential. 

Chris Smith is a writer and blogger who writes about a number of topics on his own website Spend It Like Beckham, as well as for a number of high profile publications including the Guardian, the Telegraph, the Huffington Post and Salon.