Scam-proof your computer

Man banking online

New figures show that while card fraud fell by more than 50% last year, people falling victim to online banking fraud rose as criminals pulled out more sophisticated methods to target customers.

The UK Cards Association reports that counterfeit card fraud, such as skimming and cloning, fell by over a half last year. This is the first time that card fraud has decreased since 2006. Cheque fraud, meanwhile, fell by 29%.

However, the figures also show a worrying rise in online banking fraud. Online banking losses totalled £59.7 million in 2009 – up 14% from 2008 figure.

This increase is largely due to criminals using more sophisticated methods to target online banking customers rather than the banks’ own systems, the organisation says. 

For example, many victims are hit by malicious software (often referred to as malware), which target vulnerabilities in their PCs.

There were also more than 51,000 phishing incidents recorded during 2009 – a 16% increase on the amount seen in 2008.

According to CIFAS, the fraud prevention service, 76% of cases where fraudsters effectively hijack a victim’s bank account – know as takeover fraud - were perpetrated online last year.

Phone banking fraud losses, which have been collated for the first time by The UK Cards Association, totalled £12.1 million in 2009. Most losses involve customers being duped into disclosing security details - through cold calling or fake emails - which the criminal then uses to commit fraud.

David Cooper, chairman of the Fraud Control Steering Group, the payment industry’s leading fraud prevention group, says that although online banking fraud losses have shown a year-on-year increase, card fraud remains a main focus of criminal activity.

Total fraud losses on UK cards fell by 28% between 2008 and 2009 but losses are still alarmingly high at £440.3 million.

How you can beat online banking scams: Malware and phishing emails

Malware is the common terms for computer viruses that allow scammers to carry out malicious activity undetected. Trojan Horses, for example, effectively give scammers back-door entry to your computer without you realising.

Once installed, the creater is able to steal sensitive information from the person using the computer. So, a keystroke logger program may be used to record the characters from the victim’s username and password, or credit and debit card numbers. 

Other software may spoof pages of the victim’s banking website – allowing the creator to steal sensitive information.

The best way to stay safe from malware is to install firewalls, up-to-date antivirus software and anti-spyware programmes.

Make sure you use the latest version of your desired internet browser, for example Internet Explorer, and you download all of its security updates.

Many people are targeted by malware through email scams - the subject line will normally try to tempt you with sensationalist claims or irresistible offers.

Treat all unsolicited emails (especially those from unknown senders) with caution – evening previewing or opening a message using HTML may be enough to install Trojan software onto your computer, so if you want to check it before you delete then do so in 'plain text' only.

Whatever you do, never click on links from such emails to visit unknown websites. You should consider using an anti-spam product to help to filter out such unsolicited emails.

If you do receive a suspicious email then report it to Bank Safe Online.

More about