How to keep your money safe from identity thieves

Simple measures should stop fraudsters from ruining your financial life

PRECAUTIONS: Millions of people fall victim to online fraud but there are steps you can take

MILLIONS OF people every year fall victim to identity theft or credit card fraud.

There’s no doubt that being the victim of credit fraud or identity theft can have a devastating impact on one’s life. And recent figures would suggest that it’s a problem that’s growing.

According to a 2018 report by Fraudscape identity fraud in Britain hit a record high with 174,523 incidents that year. Many of these happened online.

The report also highlighted concerns that fraudsters are increasingly making the move away from credit card and bank fraud towards products and services such as mobile phone contracts, online retail accounts, retail credit loans and even dating profiles, which are subject to less stringent security checks.

Research by virtual private network comparison site Top10VPN.com found that cyber criminals can buy someone’s PayPal login for a price of £280.

Online dating accounts, eBay accounts and social media profiles can also give criminals an easy path to accessing someone’s personal details in order to steal money.

Simon Migliano, head of research at Top10VPN.com, said: “Some of the accounts we found for sale open the door to even more ingenious scams. A hacked Airbnb account, for example, could allow a scammer to pocket hundreds in booking fees or even stay at high-end properties as a guest and burgle the hosts. At less than £6 initial outlay, that’s very appealing to a cybercriminal.

“Our research is a stark reminder of just how easy it is to get hold of personal info on the dark web and the sheer variety of routes that fraudsters can take to get hold of your money.

“This really underlines the importance of two-factor authentication and, more generally, secure use of websites and apps.”

Not only is it a major pain to replace lost credit cards or have money stolen from you, it is a personal violation of the worst kind. Having your identity stolen and trying to prove that it was not you who had made those purchases or applied for a certain set of papers (such as a passport) is frightening and unnerving at best.

So, it makes sense to take those extra steps to avoid becoming a victim of fraud. Below are three important steps you can take to protect yourself.

1. Use an identity theft protection service

These services can provide one of the best ways to tackle online fraud.

Companies such as Cifas, Experian Credit, Check My File and Identity Force combine tools to protect your identity from being stolen with monitoring of credit reports, credit card transactions, banking activity, and even benefits information.

They will monitor your accounts to see if any suspicious activity has taken place and immediately contact the appropriate parties as well as you in order to stop fraud before it happens or gets out of control.

These services may cost you a monthly fee, but they are worth their weight in gold should the need arise to protect yourself.

2. Be computer wary

So many computer scams can look truly authentic.

But if you receive a pop-up of any kind, this should be your first indication that something is not right. Even if it has a professional logo that you recognise, do not trust anything that “pops up” on your computer.

Also, be very wary of websites that you visit, and make absolutely certain that you have an up-to-date firewall and antispyware, antivirus programmes on your computer. In addition, make sure that you are using an updated and current version of your web browser to take advantage of the latest security features.

Watch out for emails that seem like they are from someone you know, but have an odd subject matter or none at all.

If you have the time, always ask a friend if they sent you something before you open it if it looks even a little bit suspicious.

3. Use a paper shredder

As outdated as this may seem, using a paper shredder can save you from a costly mistake.

Many identity thefts begin with your rubbish. Personal information such as name, telephone number, national insurance numbers, and bank account records, as well as credit card statements are all subject to identity theft.

Shredding those important documents is key to keeping your personal information safe.

If you can, go paperless. Digital communication leaves little room for identity thieves to plough through your bins and piece together important data.

While there are many more ways to protect your identity, these are three ways you can easily get started on the path to keeping your identity safe.

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