A worrying number of people admit they take few precautions to keep their money safe when shopping and banking online. Here’s how to improve your financial security.
Millions of people are putting their finances at risk by using easy-to-guess passwords and failing to take security issues seriously.
Just under one in three Brits admit to using personal information such as their date of birth, maiden name or home address to create passwords for the likes of online banking services or web retailers.
This is according to research carried out by credit-reference agency Experian.
Details ‘easy to find’
Experian says that, all too often, these details are easy for fraudsters to find on the internet, for example in social media profiles and posts.
Meanwhile, 44% of those questioned by the firm said they rarely or never changed their online passwords, and 37% say they do not password-protect their mobile phones or tablet computers.
But the survey also found that people were increasingly taking the view that it was primarily the responsibility of organisations such as banks and retailers to ensure their customers were protected from online fraud.
More than three-quarters of the public now thinks this is the case, compared with just 40% who had this opinion in 2012.
Fraud has more than financial costs
In general, banks will refund the victims of fraud provided they haven’t been particularly negligent.
But as well as the financial aspect, being targeted by online criminals can be a stressful experience and putting matters right can be very time-consuming.
As such, it makes sense to take every reasonable precaution to avoid any problems.
‘Precautions are vital’
Amir Goshtai, managing director at Experian, said: “While most of us take the necessary steps to protect our homes from burglars, not everyone is taking the same care to protect their possessions online.
“We wouldn’t use one key for all the doors and windows in our home – and most of us wouldn’t leave a key in the front door so anyone could get in.
“So we encourage people to think of their ‘21st century keys’ in the same way – things like the passwords we use to secure the doors to our personal information online.”
John Unsworth at City of London Police added: “Protecting your personal information, be it through having secure passwords, not responding to unsolicited emails, not making too much information available on social media accounts or having internet security software for your electronic devices, is vital in this day and age.
How to stay safe
“By taking these relatively simple steps we can all make life much more difficult for the cyber fraudsters that are continually looking to prey upon weaknesses on our online set-up.”
Goshtai said that it was up to both organisations and their customers to keep personal information safe online.
Experian and the City of London Police had the following advice for those worried about financial crime online:
Use different passwords for different services as much as possible. And instead of using common words, consider making up a password from the first letters of each word in a memorable sentence.
Always use a passcode on mobile devices such as phones or tablets.
Be cautious when using public Wi-Fi networks in cafes or at airports, for example. It can be very easy for criminals to hack into such networks and access your device.
Only use credit or debit cards to make payments on websites that you trust and which are secure: the site’s address should have “https:” at the start rather than just “http:”, and there should be a padlock symbol next to the address.
Monitor your bank statements and credit files to ensure there are no suspicious transactions and that no one has applied for a loan or credit card in your name.