More than one in ten people have been a victim of financial fraud, one in ten have had one of their online accounts hacked, and a third of Brits say they are worried that they could become a victim of financial fraud at any time.
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Financial fraud and cybercrime is booming. Financial Fraud Action UK says there were over a million incidents of financial fraud in the first six months of 2016 - up 53% from the same period a year earlier. If we are to protect ourselves from financial fraud, we need to understand the different forms of attack the fraudsters take.
Card-not-present fraud: Criminals get hold of card details either by recording them during a legitimate transaction, or downloading malware onto the victim's computer. They then use those details for online shopping.
Card ID theft: Card ID theft is either application fraud or account takeover fraud. In the former, the criminal uses stolen or fake documents to open an account in your name, and runs up debts. Account takeover involves them taking over a genuine account, and clearing it out.
Cash machine fraud: Criminals target ATMs. They may look over your shoulder at your PIN, and then steal your card - or use a device attached to an ATM which copies the card details and records the PIN.
Phishing: Typically, phishing emails come from someone pretending to be a reputable company and usually ask you to enter your account details.
Vishing: Fraudsters phone a victim and persuade them to give out personal information and account details.
SMiShing (SMS phishing): This is similar to the previous two types of fraud, except it's carried out via text message.
Malware: Malware or malicious software is when a computer virus is installed onto your computer without your knowledge. This enables fraudsters to steal personal information including passwords and PINs when you enter an internet banking site.
Matt Sanders from Gocompare.com Money says that once you know your weak points, you can take steps to protect yourself. He suggests five areas we need to work on:
1. Protect your account numbers and PINs:
Never provide debit or credit card numbers, PINs or other personal information in response to an unsolicited email, text, online or telephone request. Genuine organisations, including banks and card providers, never request information in this way.
Be wary of unsolicited calls, emails or texts claiming to be from companies or organisations connected with your finances, requesting personal details. Never reply to a suspicious email, click on links or ring a number within the message. Use a different phone line to ring out if you've received a suspected vishing call.
2. Keep passwords and PINs strong and keep them secret:
Choose strong PINs and passwords. Don't use obvious numbers like birthdates, anniversaries, or consecutive, ascending or descending number sequences. Strong, hard to crack passwords contain a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Memorise your passwords and PINs – don't write them down or disclose them to anyone else. Don't use the same password and PIN for all your accounts and payment cards. And don't use the same passwords for social media sites and online banking.
3. Protect your card
When you receive a new payment card, always sign the back. Then when you make a transaction, make sure it remains within sight at all times.
4. Protect your personal information
Protect your personal information on social media using privacy settings, and only accept friend requests from people you know. In the real world, shred documents containing personal or financial information you no longer need.
5. Protect your devices
Regularly update your computer's firewall or antivirus software, and always PIN-protect smartphones and other mobile devices.
6. Stay safe online
When shopping online, always look for secure transaction symbols. The web address should start 'https' and the page should display the secure payment 'lock' logo. If possible, always shop or bank online from your personal computer. Always log-off from a site once you've completed a transaction, and always access your online financial accounts by typing the web address into your browser.
7. Regularly review financial statements:
Check credit card and bank statements on a regular basis and look out for unusual or unauthorised transactions. Contact your provider immediately if you suspect fraud. It's also important to make a note of when you should be receiving a new payment card. If it doesn't arrive when you expect it, contact the card provider as soon as possible.
Sanders says: "Financial fraud comes in many guises – from crooks using stolen credit cards to increasingly sophisticated digital scams. Being aware of the different types of scams and knowing the warning signs to look out for, can also help people avoid falling victim. And, once people appreciate how easy it can be for criminals to piece together personal data gleaned from online profiles, such as those shared on social media, they tend to be more cautious about openly sharing their personal information."