By Davina Fenton
As a new study reveals more than four million people were forced to cancel credit or debit cards due to fraud in the last year, here are some tips to help you avoid becoming a victim.
- Keep it personal
Do not give any personal information (name, address, phone numbers etc) to people or organisations before first verifying their credentials.
Some fraudsters will "cold-call" armed with minimal information hoping to elicit a whole lot more. So, if you receive a suspicious phone call hang up immediately.
- Be vigilant when using ATMs
Before withdrawing cash from machines check for any signs of tampering, if anything looks suspicious don't take the risk. Report it to the bank or police.
Try not to let yourself be distracted especially by seemingly 'helpful' strangers and always shield your pin from any prying eyes.
- Read your statements
With many of us opting for online bank statements these days, rather than paper ones, they often get overlooked as people don't always take the time to view them.
It's advisable to regularly check your statements for suspicious transactions. If you spot something unfamiliar, report it to your bank or card provider as soon as you can.
- Get shredding
Shred receipts, statements or invoices, old cards or other post with your details or name and address which could help fraudsters clone your identity.
- Don't bite when fraudsters coming phishing
Many frauds begin with a phishing email, for example, one purporting to be from a bank asking you to click on a link and confirm your banking details.
Although these may appear genuine, don't be fooled. If in doubt, call your bank.
Some phishing emails offer free trials or gifts, but the only thing that may be complimentary is you giving people your details or money.
- Create strong and unique passwords
Change your passwords routinely and make them unique by using a mix of characters, letters and numbers.
Avoid using easily identifiable information, such as names and birthdays.
The more complex the password the better, just make sure you remember them!
Last year, a survey by Telesign of 2,000 people in the US and UK found almost half (47%) relied on a password that had not been changed for five years.
- Is your antivirus up-to-date and firewall on?
Thousands of new viruses are detected each year which could target your personal information, so regularly check if your antivirus software - which helps protect you from dangerous downloads - has been updated.
Most software automatically downloads updates on existing viruses and updates on new threats. You can also manually scan emails or your computer and monitor files.
Always check if your firewall is active and internet browser security settings are set to a high level of security.
- Get extra online payment protection
For extra peace of mind when paying for things online sign-up to Verified by Visa or checkout with MasterCard Secure Code whenever you are given the option.
This involves you registering a password with your card company and adds an additional layer of security to online transactions with signed-up retailers.
- Check your credit files
Regularly check your credit file which could alert you to any entries you do not recognise.
Identity protection services, such as ProtectMyID, can monitor your credit report and alerts you to potential fraudulent activity.