Being a victim of fraud is a horrible thing to experience. It’s an attack on your very being and can be emotionally, as well as financially draining. No wonder that 31% of UK residents fear being a victim of fraud (survey by RateSetter).
These days there are many ways criminals can use your personal information against you but with a few simple precautions you can reduce your risk of being a victim of fraud. Our lovely 118 118 twins have come up with eight useful tips to help you stay one step ahead of the fraudsters.
Different types of fraud
Firstly, understanding some of the different types of fraud will help you to spot the warning signs. Here are a few examples, but be aware fraudsters are also trying new ways to trick people out of their hard earned cash.
- The Overpayment: A fraudster may overpay for an item they bought from you. They will ask you to refund the difference but by the time you do this the original payment has been cancelled and the charges have been reversed! Agh!
- Earn money from home: There are lots of adverts about earning money from home for only a few hours a week. While some are legitimate offers, many are not! If a job offer involves receiving money into your bank account and then transferring a portion of the funds into another account then stay well clear! You could discover that after transferring the funds, the original transaction has been reversed.
- The computer virus hack: Avoid anything from companies who phone up claiming your computer has a virus. They’ll say you need to log on to fix the problem but fraudsters will quickly hack into your computer, browse your history and steal your personal information.
- The telephone scams: There are lots of other telephone scams out there so if you do feel the questions are too personal or the call is making you uncomfortable, then we recommend you end the call immediately. You could always try phoning them back on the official company number.
Don’t fear, the 118 Twins are here!…along with these useful tips to fight fraudsters!
- Shred your documents
You wouldn’t paste your bank account details onto your front window or give them to a stranger would you? But chucking complete bank statements away and leaving your bins outside is like saying ‘help yourself’.
Shred any documents you don’t need! You can buy a shredder for as cheap as £12 from Tescos.
And you can reuse the paper for a rabbit hutch or building paper mache volcanos with the kids on rainy days!
- Be careful with your cards
Are you constantly losing your cards? Forgetting which trouser pocket or purse they are in? Get into the habit of keeping your cards in a wallet that won’t easily get lost or be snatched.
When paying in a shop or restaurant never let the assistant take your card out of sight – they could be copying your details and security number to use later online or sell on.
If you keep cards at home then make sure they are not kept in obvious places for a burglar to find. If you are throwing away cards then cut across the numbers a few times to make them hard to read.
- Keep your PIN numbers safe
It’s surprising how many people keep their PIN numbers in their wallet or purse. So if you’re not prepared to memorise 4 digits then get prepared for losing a lot of money!
Always shield your hand when inputting your PIN number and make sure no-one is looking over your shoulder at the cash machine.
When choosing a PIN, try to avoid numbers like 1234 or your birthdate. They are the easiest numbers to guess so think of another significant but personal number.
- The smart way to use account passwords
In an ideal world you will have lots of complicated and difficult passwords for every login you need; but unless you’re Dominic O’Brien (8 times world memory champion) it’s not likely you’ll remember them all. So pick two or three passwords that are easy for you to remember but are slightly obscure. Avoid things like maiden names or places of birth, and try to incorporate both upper and lower case letters, along with a number or symbol.
If you do need to write it down somewhere then don’t put it somewhere obvious (like a wallet or back of a cheque book).
- Be careful on the internet and social media sites
As the World Wide Web is so enormous we can often feel that no one is watching apart from our family and close friends, but it’s easy for criminals to be anonymous online and therefore the internet is rife with scammers and fraudsters.
In addition to being careful with your online passwords, we have a number of other suggestions.
- Try to avoid publishing too much of your personal information online. If you do record your birthday date don’t include the year of your birth.
- Do not publicise when you are on holiday – you are basically informing every potential burglar around the world that you are not currently at home!
- Set up login passwords for your personal computer and ensure it returns to the lock screen after a short period of inactivity in case it gets stolen.
- Try to avoid saving your passwords onto your online accounts – it may be easier for you, but it’s also easier for a thief!
- Avoid befriending strangers that you have no connection with.
- If you are paying for something online, use a secure system like Paypal, and check for web addresses with “https://” or “shttp://”, which means the site has taken extra measures to secure your information. “Http://” is not secure.
- Keep your security software up to date.
- Do not click or download any links or attachments that you are unsure of.
- Check your credit report
Your credit report could be significantly affected without you even knowing it, such as a credit card or loan taken out in your name. Check your credit report to make sure there is no unusual activity.
- Registering with Cifas
Register with Cifas Protective Registration at just £20 for two years, to help reduce the risk of fraud. It tells any organisation that uses Cifas data to pay special attention when your details are used to apply for their products or services. Knowing you're at risk, they'll carry out extra checks to make sure it's really you applying, and not a fraudster using your details.
What to do if you think you have been a victim of fraud
Establish what type of fraud you think you have been a victim of– you should cancel any bank cards/credit cards and change your passwords immediately.
Report it to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre by calling 0300 123 20 40 or by visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk
We hope you have found these tips useful and that by following them you avoid the unnecessary stress that can be caused if you become a victim of fraud.
Stay safe everyone!