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How to Keep your Personal Information  and Bank Details Safe Online

With scammers continuously developing their skills and coming up with new and inventive ways to trick people out of their hard earned money, it’s more important than ever to know how to keep your personal information and bank details safe online. This is especially relevant now that the pandemic has causes a huge increase in online activity.

There are multiple different ways of keeping your data safe and making sure that you have several layers of security is vital.

This guide will go through all the different things that you can do to protect your information online.

How to protect your personal information and bank details from scammers

It’s very important that you know how to protect your details online so they’re kept safe from scammers. It’s also important to be careful about who you share your information with.

Don’t click on unsolicited links or attachments

One of the main ways that scammers obtain people’s information is through phishing emails. This is where they’ll pretend to be from a well-known company or organisation in order to make you follow a link or attachment so they can steal your details.

There are a few different ways that scammers do this, here are some common examples:

  • Bank - Scammers sometimes use scare tactics by pretending to be a representative from your bank and claiming that there’s been some kind of security breach on your account. They will tell you to follow a link in order to update your online banking log-in details. However, there has been no security breach and you will actually just be giving your bank log-in details to a scammer. From there they will use your log-in details to steal money and potentially commit further crimes such as identity theft.

  • HMRC - Scammers often pose as HMRC representatives and claim that you’re due a tax refund, or that you owe a tax bill – either way they will ask you to follow a link and enter your personal information and bank details in order to pay the bill or claim the refund. Scammers are very good at creating genuine-looking fake websites by copying logos and the language used on the actual site that they’re trying to replicate. The most important thing to remember here is that HMRC will never contact you out of the blue via email, text or phone call to ask for personal information or bank details.

  • Charity - Sometimes scammers will pretend to working for a charity and ask for donations to be made. Again, they will give you a link to follow which will take you to a website created by them, and there they will ask you to fill out your personal details and payment information in order to make a donation. They will use these details to steal money from your bank account.

  • Retailer - Scammers often pretend to be from well-known retailers by fabricating their email address and using the retailer’s logo in their emails to trick people into thinking that they’re going to the real website. They will normally advertise a massive sale to tempt people into following the link. This link may either take you to a fake website, made to look like the retailer’s, where they’ll steal your personal information and bank details. Or, once you’ve clicked on the link, it will download viruses onto your device.

Create strong and unique passwords

One of the best ways to keep your data safe online is by using strong and unique passwords for all of your online accounts – especially your email and online banking accounts. Passwords should contain a mixture of upper case letters, lower case letters, numbers, and symbols, and they shouldn’t contain any personally identifying information.

It’s also very important that you have a different password for each of your online accounts. If you use the same password across multiple accounts then a scammer would have access to everything if they got hold of your password.  

For more information on how to create a strong password, read the following article: How to Choose a Safe Password

Use two-factor authentication

Most websites now give you the option to enable two-factor authentication and you should be setting this up for every online account, especially email accounts and social media.

2FA adds an additional layer of security as you will be sent a text message with an OTP (one-time passcode) which you have to enter into the site every time you log-in. This means that a scammer would need to have your password and your mobile phone to be able to log-in to an account that has 2FA activated, which makes it nearly impossible for them. It also means that you’ll be alerted if someone tries to log-in to your account.

Be careful about what you post on social media

Social media is where scammers can get a lot of the information that they need about you in order to successfully pull off their scams. If your account isn’t set to private then anyone can view what you post, not just your friends and family.

If you post too much information about yourself then an identity thief can learn this and use it to guess your passwords or answer security questions to get into your online banking accounts.

Learn how to check if a website is secure

Before you enter any personal information or bank details into a website, you must first make sure that’s it’s a safe and secure site.

The easiest way to do this is by checking the address bar to see what the URL starts with. If it starts with HTTPS and has a green padlock symbol this means that any data you enter into the website is sent to the server in an encrypted format. This means that your data cannot be read by anyone trying to intercept it. HTTPS is used widely across the internet and mainly by ecommerce sites that require your bank details.

You should also check a website’s privacy policy before entering any details. Here it should list how your information is collected and stored by the company and whether they share it with any third parties.
For more information on this, read this article: 5 Simple Ways to Tell if a Website is Safe and Secure

How to keep your devices secure

Whilst it’s vital to keep your data safe online, it’s also very important to make sure that all of your devices are secure too.

The following steps will protect your devices from being hacked and protect your information from hackers if the worst was to happen.

Always use up-to-date anti-virus software

Having up-to-date anti-virus software on your devices will protect them from any viruses or malware which scammers use to either steal your details, destroy your devices, or hold your devices to ransom. This could happen if you found yourself on an unsafe website or if you click on a link sent to you via a phishing email or social media message.

You do have to pay a small amount to have good anti-virus software, but it’s worth it if it protects your personal information and bank details from being stolen.

Be careful about public Wi-Fi

Ensuring that you’re connecting to legitimate and safe public Wi-Fi hotspots when you’re out and about is very important. Scammers can set up their own hotspots in public places and then view everything you do online once you’ve connected to it. This means that they can see passwords that you use to log-in to accounts.

They’ll often set up in a café or airport (somewhere that already has a Wi-Fi hotspot) and call their hotspot something very similar so people think that they’re connecting to the real one.

For more information on how to identify fake public Wi-Fi hotspots, read the following article: How to Identify and Protect Yourself from Fake Public Wi-Fi Hotspots

Use strong passwords

As well as having strong and unique passwords to get into your online accounts, this is also important for all of your devices. This is to prevent someone from being able to access your devices in person, rather than online.

Our mobile phones are like vaults of personal information and some people even use them to store all of their passwords. If you have the option to use a word rather than a code to get into your phone then this is the better option as it will be much harder for anyone to guess. You should also have different passwords set up for each device so a hacker wouldn’t be able to get into everything with one password. 

Always sign out of online accounts

If you’re someone who doesn’t have a password to get into your phone, then it’s very important that you at least sign out of all of your accounts.

It’s okay to stay signed into your social media accounts if you have a strong password set up to get into your device, but not having a password and not signing out of accounts makes stealing your information easy for scammers.

You also must remember to sign out of accounts after you’ve used a public computer.

 

 

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