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Tips about how you can be sure it's secure to buy online
More and more great deals are available online but the internet is also one of the most commonly used tools
by fraudsters to take your money away from you. Here are a few simple ways you can protect yourself and
your bank details from internet scammers and their dirty tricks.
Keep an eye out on your credit rating
Identity fraud is the fastest growing crime in the UK. With the latest fiasco of the government losing 25
million child benefit records, a lot of people could be at risk of identity fraud � where fraudsters
take out credit cards or loans in your name � and millions of pounds of taxpayers� money could be in
Start off by signing up to a credit checking service such as Credit Expert , so you can keep an eye out for
any unusual activity or damage to your credit rating that you think shouldn�t be there. Credit Expert
offers a 30-day free trial, although the small monthly subscription could save you thousands in the long
Think before giving out your details
Before you give out any information about yourself online � even your name � think who wants that information
and what they might be able to do with it. Make an informed decision as to whether or not you want to
give the company your details. For example, a legitimate survey website has every reason to ask you your
age, but a "bargain offer" pop-up asking for it is highly questionable.
You can�t really make L1,000s in a day
A successful business requires time, effort and perseverance � companies telling you otherwise are usually
lying. Recently, there have been a lot of emails telling people they can make L1,000s a week from
Is this email genuine? How not to get caught by phishers
Beware of anything starting "Dear valued customer" or similar - phishers usually won�t use your first
or last name.
Ignore emails that threaten to close your account within a certain amount of time. They�re trying to
make you give over your details without thinking - any genuine company would call you up to discuss
Enter web addresses straight into the URL box at the top of your browser rather than following links
in emails, particularly to sites such as eBay, Amazon or Paypal.
If in any doubt, check directly with the company. Banks and financial institutions are wise to phishing.
Many have guidelines on their website or an address you can forward any suspicious emails to.
Never ever give out bank account details or sensitive information such as passwords through email � it
just isn�t safe.
filling out surveys at home � providing they pay an initial fee and then a subscription. Don�t fall for it
� no legitimate market research should ask you to pay to take part. Instead, take a look at our article
about taking part in online surveys.
Anything telling you that you can make large amounts of money in short amounts of time is a little bit shady
and should be avoided at all costs.
Beware of �cash prizes� and �free gifts�
As tempting as it might be to give out your bank account details to collect the L1,000,000 cash prize you�ve
been sent in an email (even though you didn�t enter any competitions) � don�t do it!
Companies advertising free gifts will normally be referral sites, where you have to purchase one of their
products, or use one of their services, then get loads of your friends to sign up and purchase a product.
Then you will get the free gift if you�re lucky, and the free gift is very often of a lesser value than
the service you�ve had to pay for.
If at any point you find yourself looking at an email, pop-up or advert telling you you�ve won a cash prize,
ignore it (or delete it if it�s an email). People just don�t give money away for nothing, and you can�t
win prizes for competitions that you�ve never entered. If you�ve been "automatically" entered into a
competition then ask yourself how this company got your details, and why would they enter you into this
competition. If it sounds too good to be true then it probably is.
Avoid unprofessional-looking websites
Should you come across a website with numerous spelling and grammatical mistakes, or with lots of pop-ups
and banners � it�s probably not legit and it�s advisable you don�t give out any valuable information
through these sites.
Similarly, if you come face to face with any pop-ups telling you that you need to download software you�ve
never heard of, close the window and try not to visit the site again.
Get a good internet security system
You can dramatically reduce your vulnerability to internet scammers and hackers by installing simple security
software on your computer. A free anti-virus programme such as AVG can protect you against viruses, Trojans
and worms (self-installing programmes that can damage your PC) and other users logging on to your computer
and accessing your files. For less than L30 you can get a Norton Anti-Virus programme to give you full
Look out for the little padlock
Every time you enter any form of bank account details on an online form, look out for the little padlock
on the bottom right side of your web browser. This padlock means that the website is secure, and can�t
be accessed by any third parties � meaning that your information is safe from prying eyes. If at any
point you are asked to enter bank details, make sure you see this sign; otherwise your details can easily
be accessed. You should be taken to a secure server (the URL should start https://www).
Don�t fall for phishing
Phishing is a common tactic used by hackers and identity thieves to acquire sensitive information like usernames,
passwords and bank details. This is done by creating a website that looks identical to big brand websites
such as online banks, social networking sites, eBay and AOL. An email directs you to the dodgy website,
where you are asked to enter your personal information into what appears to be the trusted site�s ordinary
login form. However, your details are actually collected and stored on a database which is likely to
be sold on to another fraudster.
Ditch Internet Explorer
The most commonly used web browser is Internet Explorer (the default browser on all PCs) but unfortunately
for internet users, its security system isn�t the best. Check your version is up to date - you can install
a service pack from the Microsoft website, or even better, download a smaller rival web browser like
Opera for free. Opera Software is a company that�s run by internet good guys who are dedicated to improving
the quality of web browsing � so you know you�re in good hands when you use their software.
Don�t open email attachments from people you don�t know
If you receive an email from someone you�ve never even heard of, or that looks particularly dodgy (trying
to sell you Viagra or get your bank details, for example), delete it immediately. The attachments will
probably contain harmful files that can seriously damage your computer, or even help scammers access
your personal details.
Get a prepaid credit card
Prepaid credit cards are a great way to protect yourself from skimming. Having one doesn't mean that
you are immune to having your details stolen, however the card has no relation to your bank account and
cannot give away your bank details, so even if scammers get hold of your card details, they can only
steal as much as there is on the card at one time. All you then have to do is be prudent about
how much you top up the card with. Only top up as much as you are going to need and make sure you
do not keep a high balance on the card for long periods of time. This way you will be protected
from serious fraud.
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