How to stay one step ahead of online fraudsters who are trying to steal your cash

Online security is vital to make sure fraudsters can't get at your cash.
Online security is vital to make sure fraudsters can't get at your cash.

There was a time – not too long ago, though it feels like a different era – when the idea of identification fraud made us all rush out to buy household shredders.

The plastic bucket with razor-sharp teeth would sit self-importantly in the corner of the room, and in it we’d put our trust and our old bills in an attempt to thwart unscrupulous criminals desperate to fish around in our bins for dates of birth and account numbers.

Of course we’re now in a near-paperless society and all our important financial transactions are done online. So we’re safe right? Well, no.

Despite having a host of passwords and security keys to remember, almost one in 10 of us still fall victim to fraud every year.

And ID fraud is on the rise – a record 173,000 cases were reported in the UK last year according to fraud organisation Cifas – and the fraudsters are getting smarter all the time.

There are scams which involve paying for bogus technical support to deal with a non-existent computer virus, or scams involving official-looking emails asking for bank details.

Experts believe fraudsters even hack into victims’ email accounts and redirect emails from, say, people’s solicitors to themselves; the fraudsters then create an email address like the solicitor’s and send the victim emails.

It’s no wonder then that when Which? launched an online reporting tool last September, within two weeks, around 650 people reported electronic transfer money losses totalling £5.5million; an average of £8,500 each.

Too many of us have a false sense of security around our online financial information – and, of course, there’s really only a slim chance of getting your money back if you’re the victim of bank transfer fraud.

So it’s more important than ever to be on your guard. Take the steps outlined here to protect your money.

* Email your consumer queries to askalex@which.co.uk

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF AGAINST FRAUD

* Passwords are the easiest way scammers can get into your information.

They should be at least eight characters long, as complex as possible, and different for every site you use. To test yours visit password.kaspersky.com

* Opt out of the ‘open’ electoral register where your name and address are available publicly.

* Use the best antivirus software – check the program you have provides the best protection and that it isn’t about to run out. Find out more at which.co.uk/bestbuyantivirus.

* Double-check that your social media profiles are private, only sharing personal details with people you know.

* Check your credit report at least once a year to ensure there haven’t been any bogus applications in your name.