The recent warnings from the National Crime Agency about the possibility of imminent threats from malware have really brought home the importance of staying protected online.
Experian research found a 37% increase in confirmed fraud cases identified by the Experian Victims of Fraud service in 2013 since the year before*. Of 20,000 suspected fraud cases investigated, 12,740 cases were confirmed to be fraudulent, with big increases in account takeover fraud (up 123% from 110 to 246 cases a month), loan fraud and mobile/communications account-related fraud.
So to help make sure our personal financial details, data and photographs are protected from the threat of being stolen or held to ransom by fraudsters, one thing we can do is take steps to beat the cyber-criminals.
But following the basics in online ID protection is something not all of us do. On average, Brits have 19 online accounts each, with an average of seven different passwords. However, one in 10 of us never changes their online passwords and one in 20 uses the same passwords for all of their online accounts, many of which are inactive (social networks (26%), email (18%), retail accounts (21%) yet still potentially accessible to fraudsters.**
Five tips for heading off the cyber-criminals:
1. When you’re banking online, use strong passwords with more than 8 characters (ideally 10-12), and avoid using words from the dictionary. Use two-factor authentication where possible and log out when finished. Also, shred paper financial documentation after use as it is likely to contain data like your full name, address and much more.
2. When using your debit or credit card online, ensure the site is encrypted (indicated by a padlock symbol) and that the site you are paying is legitimate.
3. It’s best to keep a home lock on your smartphone, and never to store account names and passwords. Bear in mind that public Wi-Fi networks are usually riskier than private networks, so be careful with the information you access when out and about.
4. Think about how much information you really need to share on social media, and remember seemingly unimportant information like your children’s or even pet’s names could all be misused if seen by the wrong person – information which could help in identifying possible PIN and/or passwords.
5. If an email seems suspicious, don’t open it – a legitimate company will never ask for your account details via email. If your contacts have received emails from you that you did not send, change all your online passwords immediately. Your email account is linked to many other accounts and can hold massive amounts of personally-identifiable information.
As a CreditExpert member you can get unlimited views of your Experian credit report, which shows credit activity in your name so you can spot potentially fraudulent activity. Always tell the police, your bank, credit card issuers and anybody else who might be affected if you suffer a theft. That way, your loss is on the record and organisations that might be approached by the thieves will be forewarned.
If you think you have become a victim of identity fraud, notify the police, contact your bank and check your credit report. Experian’s Victims of Fraud service is also available free to fraud victims, and has a dedicated team to give expert advice and support tailored to particular circumstances.
*Confirmed fraud cases identified by the Experian Victims of Fraud service in 2013
**Independent consumer research conducted between 17/10/2013 and 21/10/2013 by Opinion Matters on behalf of Experian, based on a sample of 2042 UK adults.