Four simple ways to protect yourself from online scammers

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You probably feel – quite rightly – that you’re savvy when it comes to sorting your finances. You keep an eye on your bank balance and know exactly how much money is coming in and flowing out of your account.

But scams are all too common, with someone becoming a victim of fraud every 15 seconds, and £2million a day being lost in the UK.*

And with scammers coming up with increasingly sophisticated and convincing frauds, it’s all too easy to become a victim yourself. That’s why it’s vital for us all to be aware of the methods used by these criminals. The Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign aims to give us the confidence to stand up to scammers.

Many recent scams that have caught people unawares are based on persuading you to click on links in emails or text messages. You’re then redirected to a website that looks genuine, and persuaded to enter personal and financial details. But the site is an elaborate fake – and you’ve handed over all the information scammers need to steal your money.

What sort of scams work like this?

You might receive an email from the TV Licensing people, with a tempting subject line that reads something like: Your TV Licence Refund.

Although you know your colour TV Licence costs £147 a year, and you pay by direct debit, you like the sound of a refund, so you open the email.

It looks official, and tells you an annual recalculation has resulted in you being due a substantial refund – not enough to arouse your suspicions, but a sum that makes it worth filling in a form to reclaim it.

There’s a link marked Claim Your Refund. You click on it, and go straight to an official-looking TV Licensing website where you fill in your details so the money can be paid straight into your bank account. It says you’ll receive the refund within five working days.

But sadly, the email link led you to a fake site, and there won’t be any refund. Instead, fraudsters can now go on a spending spree with the information you’ve provided.

Other common scams include emails claiming you have to pay a speeding fine, or ‘refund’ emails that allow a virus onto your computer as soon as you click on the link.

Test how vulnerable you are to fraud by taking a quick test: Too Smart to be Scammed?

Simple ways to protect yourself

1 Before sharing any personal or financial details, always stop, think, and take five to remind yourself of this simple phrase: My money? My info? I don’t think so. It’s the simplest way to help prevent financial fraud.

2 Don’t commit to any online transactions unless you are 100% sure the website is genuine. To be on the safe side, always type the address straight into the address bar, rather than clicking through from links, pop-up ads or browsers. That way you’ll know you’re on a safe site.

3 If you aren’t sure of a link, roll your mouse pointer over the link to reveal the website address it’s really going to. If you don’t recognise it, it’s likely to be a fake.

4 Always install the latest software, browser and app updates – this will keep you safe from cyber criminals.

Take Five to Stop Fraud is a national campaign from Financial Fraud Action UK and the UK Government, backed by the banking industry, to help prevent fraud.

* Financial Fraud Action UK data, 2016