Protect yourself from online fraud

18 February 2008
1 Use secure shopping

Only buy from well-known companies or those that show their contact details, and check their privacy and return policies. Make sure you use a secure website to enter credit card information. Sign up to Verified by Visa and MasterCard SecureCode. Look for a padlock symbol in the bottom right of the browser window and for the website address to begin with "https://".

2 Protect your passwords

Avoid using obvious passwords, never write down or tell anyone your passwords, PIN numbers or log-in details, and use different passwords for different accounts. Exercise caution when using public computers, in an internet café or at work, for example - don't leave the computer unattended, be careful who is watching over your shoulder and always log out properly.

Criminals can access your passwords and personal information using viruses or spyware. Ensure that your home computer is as secure as possible by installing anti-virus software, for around £20 to £50 or for free from companies such as AVG and Avast.

3 Beware of suspicious emails

Banks and building societies will never send you an email asking you to verify personal details. If you receive an email asking you to click on a link and enter your personal details, such as your account number or password, it's a phishing email from fraudsters trying to steal your bank details. If you think an email you have received might be a genuine attempt by your bank to contact you or if you believe your details may have been compromised, call your bank and deal with it over the telephone.

4 Don't publish your details

Social networking websites such as Facebook and MySpace encourage us to share personal details. However, details such as your date of birth and contact information are all a fraudster needs to steal your identity. Be selective with the information you share and who you share it with, and use the privacy features on networking sites.

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