Hints & tips on how to keep your money safe online!

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This year more than ever before, we are doing a lot of our Christmas shopping online. You may normally prefer to wander round stores and Christmas markets, looking for those special little gifts that you just know are right as soon as you spot them. But due to Covid those options have been so drastically reduced that many more of us are searching the Internet instead.

But the rise in online shopping sadly also brings with it an increased risk of cyber-fraud over the festive season. According to The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), there were over 17000 reports of online shopping fraud between November 2019 and January 2020. The average amount of money lost per person was £775.

So this year, the NCSC has launched a major campaign called Cyber Aware, to help people keep their money safe online this Christmas. The campaign will run until Christmas Eve and includes TV and radio adverts, as well as a Cyber Aware website.

There are six things that the Cyber Aware campaign recommends that you do to avoid being scammed online. Let’s take a look.

 

Six Steps to Online Safety

1. Use strong separate passwords for your email and important accounts

Your email password is one of the most important passwords that you have. If your email is hacked, it could give a hacker access to be able to reset your other account passwords. It also enables them to communicate with all your other contacts as if it were you. So make sure that this password is very strong and secure, and don’t use the same password for anything else.

The same applies for your other most important accounts, such as banking, finance and social media.

 

2. Create strong passwords using three random words

It can be hard to think of a password that is strong and secure, and yet that you will also be able to remember. So the NCSC recommends that you use three words joined together. Your password will be even more secure if you include numbers and symbols as well. 

Either use totally random words, or choose words that have some kind of meaning to you but that no-one else could guess. So don’t include obvious things like pet’s names, but you could use words that refer to something memorable to help them stick in your mind. 

For example, if you went on holiday last August to France, the weather was really hot and you discovered that you absolutely loved Brie cheese, you could create a password like France0819Scorching!Brie!

 

3. Save your passwords in your browser

It can be really hard to remember all your passwords, especially if you have different passwords for every website you use. One way to help with this is to allow your browser (eg Edge, Chrome, Safari) to save the passwords for you. This means that it will fill in the password for you when you login to an account.

However, you do then need to make sure that your device is secure, otherwise anyone using your device could login as you. 

There are three main ways to do this:

  • Keep your device in a safe place, and turn it off or lock it when not in use;
  • Use a strong password to protect your device;
  • Use two-factor authentication.

We will now explain what two-factor authentication means and why it is important.

 

4. Two-factor authentication (2FA)

Two-factor authentication is an additional layer of security you can add, so that even if someone were to discover and try to use the password for one of your accounts, they would still not be able to access that account.

Some common examples of 2FA include:

  • Entering memorable information or a Pin number as well as a password;
  • Having to enter a security code that you receive by text and is only valid for a few minutes;
  • Using biometric details, such as face recognition or fingerprint.

You can also set up 2FA to trigger if anyone tries to login to one of your accounts from a device that is not recognised by the host website.

 

5. Update your devices

It is really important to keep the software and apps on your device up to date. If you do not do this, you are exposing yourself to greater security risk. This is because many of the updates that you are asked to make on your device are to fix known security issues and make your device safer to use online.

Some software and apps can be set to update automatically, but others will remind you to do so when needed. It can be irritating to keep being notified about updates, but it is definitely worth taking a few minutes to update your device, rather than increase your risk of being hacked.

 

6. Backup your data

Last but not least, it is important to keep a backup copy of important data just in case you either get hacked or lose your device. 

The safest way to do this is to sign up for a cloud storage service and make a backup copy of your data there. Some people back up to a USB drive but these can easily be lost or damaged. With cloud storage, you can usually also turn on automatic back up. This means that everything will be saved there automatically as well as on your device, without you having to remember.

Organising a backup system is one of those little jobs that we mean to do but often don’t get round to it. But take a minute now to think of all that you would lose if your device were to go missing, completely break down or get hacked. You could lose information, important documents and so many special photographs. 

So take the time now to organise an effective back up system rather than regret not doing so if anything does go wrong.

 

How to report a scam

Even when you have taken the above steps, you should always be on your guard when online. One thing that you may notice when you start becoming much more active online are spam emails, especially those known as phishing emails. 

Phishing emails try to trick you into giving away your personal information. They may appear to be from a source you trust, for example your bank, credit card company, online payment website or online store. They will advise you that there is a problem with your account or that they need you to confirm some of your details in order to keep the account going. 

There will then usually be a link to click, but this will go to a fake website. If you enter any details on this site it could give scammers access to your personal or financial information. 

So don’t ever feel pressured into giving any of your details to someone online just because they are asking you for it, and be careful never to disclose secure financial information – such as pin numbers or passwords – to anyone else.

If you do receive an email which you think is suspicious, you can forward it to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS) at report@phishing.gov.uk. The NCSC will then analyse the suspect email and any websites it links to, and will take action if they discover activity that they believe to be malicious.

 

What to do if you realise you’ve been scammed?

If you realise you may have given your information to a scammer, there is advice from Action Fraud as to what to do next. The most urgent thing is that if it involves transferring money online, you should call your bank immediately. It may be possible for them to stop the transaction from going ahead or to get your money back from the scammer’s account. 

If you have paid a scammer using credit card, debit card or Paypal then contact your payment provider as soon as possible. All of these payment methods have some level of protection built in, so there may be something that they can do to help you. But you need to act fast.

 

So do take care when shopping online over the festive season. We hope that the above tips help you to keep your money safe and secure.

If you need any additional funding for Christmas, Simple Fast Loans offer online loans. Our loan application process is safe and secure, and we will also give you a fast loan decision. So if you are considering a loan, then do get in touch with us at Simple Fast Loans to see how we can help.

Remember to check back here soon for more financial and lifestyle tips from Simple Fast Loans.