What is Online Fraud?
Online Fraud is fraud committed using the internet. It can involve financial fraud and identity theft. Online fraud comes in many forms. It is any kind of deception, scam, or crime that results in the loss of personal data, including the loss of usernames, passwords, banking information, credit card numbers, national insurance numbers and more, that is then used without your permission to commit fraud and other crimes.
For many people, identity theft is an annoying inconvenience and they can quickly resolve their problems and restore their identity. For others recovering their identity can cost hundreds, even thousands of pounds, take months to resolve, cause tremendous damage to their reputation, cause them to lose job opportunities, even influence the rejection of loan applications for homes or cars because would-be employers or loan companies see the damage on your credit scores. Some consumers have even been arrested for crimes committed by someone using their identities and have had to prove that they were not guilty.
How Can I Protect My Identity Online?
Below are a few key steps you can take to prevent identity theft online:
1. Protect with Security Software
If your computer or phone is infected with malicious software, other safeguards are of little help because you’ve given the criminals the key to all your online actions. Also, be sure that any operating system updates are installed.
2. Learn to Spot Spam and Scams
Though some phishing scams are easy to identify, other phishing attempts in an email, IM, on social networking sites, or websites can look very legitimate. The only way to never fall for a phishing scam is to never click on a link that has been sent to you. For example, if the email says it’s from your bank and has all the right logos and knows your name, it may be from your bank – or it may not be. Instead of using the link provided, find the website yourself using a search engine. This way you will know you landed on the legitimate site and not some mock-up fake site.
3. Use Strong Passwords
Weak passwords are an identity thief’s dream – especially if you use the same password everywhere. Once the thief knows your password, they can log into your financial accounts and wreak havoc. You need passwords that are long (over 10 characters), strong (use upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols), and that has nothing to do with your personal information (like name, age, birthdate, pet).
4. Monitor & Review Your Credit Scores
By law you have the right to three free credit reports per year; from Experian, Transunion, and Equifax. Look to see if there are new credit cards, loans or other transactions on your account that you are not aware of. If there are, take immediate steps to have these terminated and investigated.
5. Stay Alert
Watch for common signs of online fraud like:
- False information on your credit reports, including your Social Security number, address(es), name or employer’s name.
- Missing bills or other mail. If your bills don’t arrive or come late, contact your creditors. A missing bill may indicate that an ID thief has hijacked your account and changed your billing address to help hide the crime.
- Getting new credit cards sent to you that you didn’t apply for.
- Having credit approval denied or being subjected to high-interest rates for no apparent reason.
- Receiving calls or notices about past due bills for products or services you didn’t buy.
- Be wary of public WiFi and think twice before joining an unsecured network. Virtual private networks, or VPNs, are tools that can help you shield yourself from prying eyes on public WiFi networks.
Consistently applying these five steps to both defend and monitor your credit score will reduce the risks of having your identity stolen, and alert you instantly if such a problem arises.
Are you doing everything you can to stay protect yourself from online fraud?