How to beat online fraud

Using the internet to shop, find information and manage their finances is second nature for many people. Although the internet has been embraced by most - if not all - age groups, it is often the younger generation that is most at home surfing the worldwide web.

However, this confidence carries risks. According to, students have a laissez-faire attitude to online fraud, which is putting them at a higher risk of falling victim.

Its study found that people in full-time education are almost twice as confident about using the internet compared to other users, with 51% describing themselves as very internet literate. Worryingly, many are dismissive of the risk of online fraud, with 30% seeing no point in security software to protect their computers. also found that:

* 28% of students enter personal details into websites from unsecured computers
* 19% post sensitive information (such as their date of birth or home address) on social networking sites
* 10% are confident there is “no risk” posed by the internet

Tony Neate, managing director of, says: “Online criminals operate on a mass scale so are indiscriminate about who they target. Whether they are successful or not depends largely on two factors: firstly, how good we are at securing our computers and, secondly, how much we avoid risky activities and behaviours while we’re using the internet.”

Five steps to staying safe online

1. Protect your PC

* Install security software, ideally one that include anti-virus, anti-spyware and a firewall.

* Create a user account and use this at all times.

* If your computer uses the Microsoft Windows operating system, keep it updated from the Microsoft website.

* Don’t forget to password-protect your wireless network. Not only will this stop freeloaders slowing down your broadband speed, but it will also protect you against 'eavesdroppers'.

* also recommends using an up-to-date web browser, which will make it harder for fraudsters to get into your PC or Mac.

2.  Stay safe while shopping online

* If you’re shopping online, make sure you only use recommended secure websites and if possible stick to well-known brands or high street names such as or

* Also enter a retailer's website address in manually - never follow an email link.

* If you want to use a website you haven’t been to before look for the padlock symbol and check that the internet address starts with ‘https’ (the ‘s’ stands for secure) to make sure the site is safe.

* Don't judge a company or person on their website alone - look for a telephone number and address.

* Consider using sites that are members of the Internet Shopping Is Safe (ISIS) trustmark scheme – look out for the ISIS logo.

* Sign up to a secure payment method such as Verified by Visa or MasterCard SecureCode, which will verify your card information and provide an extra layer of protection. For transactions over £100, use a credit card for security against non-delivery or fraud.

3. Don't bank on it

*Remember your bank will never contact you to disclose security information - ignore any emails that ask for your PIN, password or other personal details.

* If you do receive a email purporting to be from a bank or other financial firm, don’t follow any of the links within it or open any attachments. Instead, forward it on to the bank in question and then delete it.

* Never access your online banking from a shared computer.

* Keep account details and passwords secret - if you surrender them yourself you may not be covered in the event of fraud.

* Check your bank statement regularly, and if you notice anything irregular call your bank immediately.

4. Wise up to spam

* As explained above, banks will never contact you via email asking you to follow links or provide any sensitive information.

* Spam emails are unsolicited and encourage you to part with your cash or share sensitive information that can later be used to steal your identity.

* Examples include: emails claiming that you have won the Spanish lottery, are due a tax rebate or have come into an inheritance; and advertisements for porn, gambling websites and online pharmacies.

* Another popular spam fraud is the Nigerian letter scam, also known as the advance fee or 419 fraud. This begins with an email sent to a large group of people, making an offer that will supposedly result in a large payoff. Stories vary, but the standard plot is that a person is in possession of a large sum of money or gold that they either cannot access or are no longer in need of.

* The golden rule with spam and phishing emails is: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

* Equally, try to avoid opening unsolicited emails, and certainly never reply, follow links included within, or open attachments.

5. Be careful using social networking websites

* Websites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Bebo and flickr are an increasingly popular way to keep in touch with your friends and classmates, both old and new. However, they also pose a risk of fraud.

* Try to avoid posting any sensitive information about yourself on your pages, or at least modify the information so it can’t be used by fraudsters. For example, rather than show your date of birth, instead give just the month or year you were born.

* Treat any unsolicited emails or messages sent via the website as suspicious. Spammers and fraudsters use social websites for phishing acitivity.

* Use a strong password and avoid allowing your computer to remember this information. Even if no one else uses your computer, if it is stolen the thieves will be able to access your private information and even hijack your identity.

* Find out what tools the website offers you to protect your personal information, and make the most of these privacy settings.


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