25 May 2015

Earlier this year, Financial Fraud Action published a report claiming that losses from online banking fraud rose by 48% in 2014 compared with 2013, while a similar report from the fraud prevention service Cifas highlighted the increase in identity theft. As technology develops, faster now than ever before, we have to do what we can to stay ahead of the curve; both as businesses and consumers.

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Some of the younger members of the team at UKFast laugh when I tell them people were still using floppy disks and fax machines when we first started up in 1999. Looking at the internet now, I appreciate it’s hard to comprehend, as we share almost everything online. The more we do this, however, the more vulnerable we are not only to cybercrime, but to fraud.

So, what can we do day-to-day in order to minimise this risk? Here are five of my top tips:

1. Make sure your anti-virus is up to date (it’s important to get the basics right first)
2. Don’t use the same passwords across multiple accounts. If you tend to forget them, use association as a way to remember each one. So, for example, if the homepage of a certain website has a logo or colour that makes you think of a certain word or phrase, use that as the basis for a password. Each time you go to log in, the association will help you to recall it. Using non-dictionary words, numbers and a combination of both upper and lower case make passwords harder to crack.
3. Try not to open unsolicited emails, especially attachments. This can be a tricky one if a contact’s email has been compromised and you aren’t aware of it. To be sure, check the tone of their message before clicking attachments and if something doesn’t seem right, follow your gut instinct.
4. Educate your children on internet safety. If they’re anything like mine, they will be pretty tech-savvy and enjoy playing on your iPad or phone, especially if you have educational apps and games.
5. Avoid using free WiFi. It’s very easy for a cybercriminal to set up a WiFi point that looks official but links back to their laptop, allowing them to access your device and the information you might be sending. If you do use free WiFi, don’t be tempted to log onto your online banking! Accessing sensitive information on this kind of connection is best avoided.

The internet is one of the greatest resources we have at our fingertips, but as with many things in life, there are always people willing to abuse it. For the rest of us, it’s about picking up the knowledge needed to stay safe and utilise the World Wide Web to its full potential.

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