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How to protect yourself from online fraudsters

Category: Money
Author: Leanne Macardle
Updated: 03/01/2018

Online fraud is becoming an ever-increasing concern, particularly as consumers are spending more and more time managing their personal lives online. Everything from shopping to banking can be conducted via the magic of the internet, but unfortunately it's all too easy for fraudsters to get access to those vital passwords and account details. To help you stay safe, we've put together a few tips to keep your details private online.

Have different passwords

It may seem like a hassle, but it's best to have unique passwords for each account to ensure a fraudster couldn't automatically access your entire online life should they discover a password. At the very least, you'll want to have different passwords for each type of service. For example, you could have a different one for online banking, shopping, email accounts and social media - and make sure to change them regularly.

Ensure passwords are hard to guess

It's age-old advice, but you want to make sure your passwords aren't common words and that they don't correlate too closely to your life. If a fraudster got access to your Facebook account, for example, you don't want them to be able to guess other passwords through the information given. Instead, you'll want to use a combination of letters (lower and upper case) and numbers, with no family pets, dates of birth or hobbies allowed.

Be wary of emails

Never open any emails that seem suspicious or that haven't come from people or organisations you know, and be especially careful to never click on links and attachments unless you can be absolutely sure of where they came from. Check your security settings too, to ensure that any dodgy emails go straight to your spambox, and remember that banks and other reputable businesses will never ask for personal details online.

Get up-to-date security software

Having some form of security software installed on your computer and smartphone is a must. Make sure it's updated regularly to ensure you're as protected as possible.

Stay safe on the move

Using a smartphone has become part of everyday life, but make sure you're careful – be aware of information stored on your phone, particularly the likes of emails that can be accessed without passwords, and if using public Wi-Fi networks, be conscious of any information you access: these hotspots are a lot riskier than private networks, so keep any personal details to a minimum.

Be savvy with social media

It's tempting to splash every piece of personal information over your social networking profiles (and a lot of people seem to do it), but just be wary of the type of information you're giving away. You may think that birthdays, pet names, emails, home addresses or phone numbers are relatively unimportant, but they could all be misused if seen by someone outside of your friendship circle. Next time you're updating your profile, think about how much information you really need to share.

Use credit cards when shopping online

Most credit cards offer some form of online protection or ID theft assistance, meaning you've got an extra layer of financial recourse should you be the victim of fraud, and they're often a lot safer than debit cards.

Don't save your account details

When online shopping, a lot of retailers will ask if you want to save your credir or debit card details for later use. Don't be tempted to tick the box: it may seem like less hassle, but saving them offers another route for fraudsters to get access to your details. Inputting the information every time will be a small price to pay for the extra level of protection.

Only shop on secure sites

All reputable shopping sites should have a security icon clearly displayed in the browser, so make sure that's the case before you start adding to your cart. Make sure you save any confirmation emails, too, and always log out once you've finished shopping.

Keep an eye on your credit profile

Often the first time people know they've been a victim of fraud is when they check their credit report, so it's a good idea to check it on a regular basis to make sure everything is as it should be. Closely monitor your bank and credit card statement to check for suspicious activity, too. If you think you've been a victim of fraud, make sure to report it to your bank or credit provider as soon as possible to keep any financial loss to a minimum.

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Disclaimer: This information is intended solely to provide guidance and is not financial advice. Moneyfacts will not be liable for any loss arising from your use or reliance on this information. If you are in any doubt, Moneyfacts recommends you obtain independent financial advice.