Although the internet can be a wonderful and inspiring place, danger is lurking, waiting to pounce. The British Office for National Statistics revealed in 2013 that 230,000 cases of online fraud were recorded in Wales and England. This was a rise of more than one 5th from the previous year and almost a 60 percent rise in five years, translating roughly to 50 million instances.
This figure does not incorporate the further 300,000 cases of fraud which the private sector recorded, such as banks and other industry bodies, which means the total number of online fraud cases in 2013, in England and Wales alone, is likely to be over half a million. (Although caution must be drawn to this figure after the ONS warned that the two figures could have overlapped somewhat). The 2013 figures coincided with a drop in more traditional crimes such as burglary. The ONS have suggested this is due to criminals making the switch to identity theft and online fraud, which is far less risky.
Although the advent of the internet has offered many legitimate means for wealth generation, this year the picture doesn’t look any better. Stats reveal that online banking fraud has cost banks as much as £20,000,000 over the past year, motivating them to issue a warning to clients that they should download anti-virus software, and be on alert for criminals attempting to acquire their personal details online.
Many people are conned through phishing scams, whereby conmen trick people online by posing under the guise of authenticity, pretending to be a representative from a bank for example. They then extract valuable passwords and information from the customer in order to fraudulently acquire money through the acquisition of this information. A staggering £60.4 million was stolen by fraudsters in 2014 in the UK alone, a rise of almost £20 million from 2013 says the Financial Fraud Action UK.
So how can you protect yourself against these online fraudsters? By taking into consideration these simple steps, you can dramatically improve your chances of evading those who wish to exploit you and your bank balance.
Download anti-spyware software
Much of the identity fraud which takes place is done through the use of spy software which attacks your computer. You are tricked into unwittingly downloading spyware onto a PC which gives hackers direct access to your valuable information, giving them the chance to steal your online identity. By not having a defence against this is similar to leaving your car unlocked in a busy carpark. Find reputable anti-spy software and install it! It’s a simple fix to a potentially very complicated problem.
Avoid using your bank cards online
The internet created markets beyond any capitalist’s wildest dreams. Yet along with this emerging market came a whole new way to con and rip people off. Credit and debit cards might be an easy way to transfer money, but they can also leave you vulnerable. There are many companies online who offer services to protect you from this, such as PayPal. Yet there are other options like paysafecard. The Austrian based company offers a service whereby you can pay cash at various outlets found on their website, and they will give you a printed card with a PIN. You can then go on a wide range of sites which accept the card and pay for goods with this number. This eliminates the possibility of your card details being stolen, giving you a stress-free internet shopping experience.
Authenticate any emails you get before responding
This one requires nothing other than a bit of thought. To tackle the aforementioned phishing scams, one must be highly critical at all emails received. Phishing scammers set out to convince you that they are a legitimate organization that you can trust – such as your bank – and that they need some details from you, which they will then use to exploit you. You can get around this by visiting the official site of the firm in question and contacting them to verify the email.
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