How to Keep Your Online Accounts Safe
It’s the age of (digital) piracy, countless fraudsters are using cutting edge techniques to try and access your accounts. They’re using your money to fund their own extravagant lifestyles. Covert phishing techniques, credit card fraud and social engineering are all employed on a daily basis to try and scam millions of people. So, as we all know account security should be a top priority.
Fraud affects millions of people every year. It contributes to an annual loss of up to £190 BILLION across the country. The good news is that there are numerous ways that you can keep your accounts safe and secure, without having to break the bank.
Methods like – careful account management to creative security questions are some of the most commonly use. Let’s take a look at how you can significantly reduce the risk of your accounts being targeted:
Passwords & Logging In
Most of us use some form of online banking tool or app. They’re incredibly useful for checking certain things like the status of your credit cards, managing repayments for payday loans and to keep a general eye on your incomings and outgoings etc.. As you well know – each online account can contain a wealth of information, so, keeping it safe is of the utmost importance.
Usually, banks will have a few different verification steps in order for you to log in. Things like secure card reader sign in systems, multiple passwords and sometimes even security questions. There are still a few things you can consider personally to ensure your accounts are absolutely secure:
- When possible, make sure you log in using your card reader. Pin sentry logins are recognised to be one of the most secure ways to access the account, as the card must be present and the user must know the PIN.
- Make sure your passwords are strong, containing a mixture of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. The most secure passwords are ones that bear no personal significance, though these are also generally the most forgettable.
- If you use multiple online banks, make sure you use a different password for each one. Similarly, make sure each of your cards has a different PIN!
- If your account offers a two-factor authentication – use it! A multi-factor login option means you’ll only be allowed to access the account by using two or more ways to verify your log in attempt. For example, along with your existing password – if you have a smart phone, you could use an authentication app that generates a new pin every 60 seconds.
Be Wary of Unexpected Emails
Scam emails are definitely not uncommon, as multiple people fall victim to them every single day. The premise is simple in that someone could, for instance, impersonate a retailer, online loan lender, or other trusted organisations. They will then manipulate you into either sending them money, logging in to your account, or telling them your personal details.
Often, these phishing emails will include some sort of link within it. This will redirect to what looks like (for instance) the bank’s own website, prompting you to log in. This is actually something known as ‘a mock email’ and the website is a cleverly designed to mirror the company they’re posing as, built solely to record your login details.
These emails often look genuine and can be indistinguishable from genuine company contacts, unfortunately for us, this makes them increasingly harder to spot. It’s important to thoroughly check for any spelling and grammar issues or any inconsistencies, as these are usually a dead giveaway that the email is of fraudulent activity.
If you do have any concerns, the best course of action is to contact the relevant company directly. Always use a trusted method of communication, e.g. their direct number.
Be Careful With What Information You Post Online
Unless your account is set to private – social media websites basically are ‘an open forum’, meaning anybody can view your posts at any time. This is regardless of whether they are friends with you or not. You can combat this to an extent by changing your privacy settings, so that only people you know can view your information.
It isn’t unheard of for fraudsters to use your social media profiles to find information. It will help them access your bank accounts, such as your full name, your date of birth and in some cases even your address!
Keep Your Antivirus up to Date
Viruses come in all shapes and sizes, performing different tasks in varying degrees of success. Some viruses will do nothing more than cause your computer to periodically turn off. Whereas some can encrypt your computer and any files you have saved, until you pay someone a large amount of money to retract the encryption.
Ransomware and key loggers are different types of viruses that will both compromise your online security. Ransomware will hold your information at ‘ransom’ until a payment is made to an unidentified person. Whereas a key logger will record any input from your keyboard, potentially showing your password to an unauthorised individual.
By keeping your antivirus software completely up to date, you can drastically reduce the likelihood of your system being infected. This will protect yourself against malicious computer programs or costly repairs.
Destroy Your Sensitive Information
It’s important to consider what you throw away. Many of us simply dispose of what could be considered sensitive information (bank statements, letters…) by tossing it in the bin when we’ve finished with it.
In nearly all circumstances, this is absolutely fine. There are, however, certain instances in which fraudsters have opened accounts in someone else’s name by using these discarded documents. Whilst it definitely isn’t as common as phishing is, it can be just as devastating and can also lead to a great deal of financial loss.
It’s recommended that you destroy any sensitive documents rather than just throw them out. The reason for this is it can completely eliminate the risk of exposing your identity.
If you ever do notice anything unusual on your credit file or a drop in your credit score, you should contact the credit reference agency as a matter of urgency.
By thoroughly protecting your accounts, you’re less likely to lose out on valuable time and money. Also, you’re much more likely to avoid disingenuous negative marks on your credit file.