Beware this new internet scam

Online shopping is big business in the UK - and it's becoming bigger all the time. Last week, technology consultants Capgemini and IMRG revealed that online retail sales rose 25% year-on-year in December, to a whopping £6.8 billion. In 2011, this upward trend looks set to continue.

That makes the latest internet scam particularly worryingly for consumers - because it's targeting customer payment websites...
In a nutshell, the malware - known as Zeus - has evolved away from targeting banks and their customers, and towards the websites people use to make simple payments online.

So which payment sites are most at risk, and what can consumers do to protect themselves?

According to Trusteer - a provider of secure browsing services - several websites are already being attacked by hackers trying to steal your details and rip you off.

For example, the evidence suggests dozens of attempts have already been made to infiltrate Money Bookers, an online payment provider that allows consumers to make online payments without submitting their personal information each time.

The research indicates that many of these malware attacks have been made in the last few days: Online payment sites Web Money and Nochex were found to have been targeted as recently as 16th January.

Hackers' strategies constantly changing

These sites have suffered some of the most extensive attacks from Zeus - but they're certainly not the only ones. The hackers' strategies are constantly changing and evolving, and it seems likely that other payment sites will be next.

Essentially, it's impossible for consumers to accurately predict which online payment sites are safe to use, and which aren't. No website is 100% safe from malware attacks, and the sites mentioned can still be seen as a good way to pay for purchases online.

The crucial thing is to be aware of this additional risk, and to remain vigilant. In many ways, you need to act as you would act when conducting any financial transaction. For example:
  • Check your account regularly, and inform your provider immediately if there are any transactions you can't account for.
  • If you receive an unsolicited email from an online payment provider - especially one asking you to provide sensitive details - be extremely wary.
  • Change online passwords and security numbers on a regular basis.
  • Check your credit record regularly, to make absolutely sure no unauthorised transactions are taking place. Credit reference agency Experian gives you the opportunity to get a free credit report when you sign up for a 30 day free trial.
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