Armed with technical advice and common sense, it is possible to prevent online fraud.

Online fraud is one of the most widespread forms of cybercrime, with the Internet used increasingly to steal the identities and financial information of unsuspecting surfers. Criminals use unsolicited email messages, as well as websites, chat rooms, message boards and social networks in order to get access to people’s details.

Types of fraud to watch out for

Internet fraudsters are so dangerous because the tactics they employ are changing all the time – however, there are definite patterns to watch out for, and armed with technical advice and common sense it’s possible to prevent online fraud.

As more and more people use their data-rich handsets for banking and online shopping, they become more attractive to cybercriminals. The world of protecting all of your Internet-accessible devices is growing trickier almost every day. As the security holes are plugged, cybercriminals look for new ones with craftier ways to get you to invite malware onto your devices. Norton can help prevent this from happening.

Phishing scams

Phishing is a popular ploy from Internet conartists, which frequently takes the form of email messages designed to steal information from the unwary.

Usually disguised as emails from reputable companies such as banks, or more recently from social networks like Facebook and Twitter, phishing scams instruct the victim to enter personal details on a malicious website, or to respond directly to the email.

Pharming scams

Though similar to phishing in that unsuspecting users are directed to malicious websites, pharming is more difficult to detect as it doesn’t require a click. Visitors are redirected automatically, even if they have typed in the correct web address.

How can you combat online fraud?

Whether criminals are trying to target you with phishing or pharming schemes, trojans and viruses, or something else entirely – you can fight identity theft and avoid becoming a victim of online fraud with the following tips.

1. Check your bank statements

It’s easier than ever for fraudsters to go after bank details thanks to online banking; but it’s also easier for users to check bank statements now that every detail is available at the touch of a button. Some banks will alert you if they detect suspicious activity, but only you will really know where you’ve been spending your money, so be sure to check your balance on a regular basis.

2. Be careful when opening attachments

Think carefully before opening email attachments, especially when these come from senders that you don’t know. Some of the most destructive viruses are spread via attachments (see: I Love You, for example) and while rigorous filters are applied to emails, it’s still important to make sure you know the sender and that you have an idea of what should be in the file.

3. Keep your operating system (OS) and software up-to-date

Norton is fixing issues with your computer as soon as criminals are able to exploit them, so it’s essential that you keep all software up-to-date if you’re going to avoid becoming a victim of online fraud. This doesn’t just apply to your Internet protection software though; most software manufacturers, including your OS provider, regularly release security patches that make it more difficult for fraudsters to get hold of your details.

4. Disable file sharing on your computer

File sharing is enabled by default on most computers running certain versions of Windows, which means that anyone in your workgroup is able to see your files. Choosing to disable file sharing doesn’t mean that you can’t allow access to people; instead it just means that you’re able to choose who you show your files to.

Computers running on Microsoft’s older operating systems are at risk, particularly the Windows XP operating system, and more so as less support becomes available through Windows Update.

  1. Open My Computer
  2. On the Tools menu, click Folder Options
  3. Click the View tab
  4. Go to Advanced Settings and uncheck Use simple file sharing (Recommended).

 

5. Use a strong password

Choosing a strong password for all services you use (preferably a different password for each service) will make it harder for thieves to gain access to your details. When selecting a password use at least eight characters, with a mixture of upper and lower case and both letters and numbers.

It’s also important to avoid using names or interests as passwords; this information is easy to get hold of from your social media profiles, as well as being easy to guess.

Norton Internet Security encrypts passwords for secure storage; monitors them for unapproved usage to ensure that you don’t enter your password anywhere by mistake and notifies you if the website you’re visiting offers secure login capabilities.

6. Read the website’s privacy policy

Almost all websites display a privacy policy, which can usually be found in the footer but is occasionally displayed more prominently. If you are asked to enter any confidential or personal data, take a look at the site’s policy. If you do not trust the site, do not enter any details.

7. Don’t give away your PIN code

Your bank will never ask you for your PIN code – over the phone, via email or on the website. If you’re being asked to disclose your PIN, the person you’re communicating with may not be a representative of your bank: DON’T give it to them.

8. Open websites in new browser windows before entering personal details

Don’t enter any personal information if you’ve arrived on a website from an external link or pop-up ad, even on a real site. Open a new browser window and type the URL directly into the address bar to ensure the site is legitimate; as explained above, pharming schemes can cause genuine websites to direct unsuspecting users to malicious pages, so ensure you’re on the correct page before inputting information.

9. Try not to keep financial information on your laptop

Laptops are much more likely to be stolen than desktops: try not to store any financial information on your laptop unless absolutely necessary. It’s also important to ensure that your computer is password protected in case it is misplaced.

10. Note down the details of companies you buy from

If you’re purchasing a product online, make a note of the address and phone number of the company you’re buying from – especially if it’s a small or independent retailer. Do not just rely on an email address; if the company is not genuine the information may help you to get your money back.

11. Use encrypted sites where possible

Social networks and websites may ask you whether you would like to turn on encryption – you should select yes if this is an option. If the site is preceded by ‘https’ this is an indication that it has been independently verified and that they are who they say they are. A padlock symbol will also be displayed in the address bar, which means that any login or payment processes on the site are secure.

12. Look for the ‘Norton Secured’ seal

The ‘Norton Secured’ seal is displayed on many trustworthy sites; this means that the site you’re visiting has been authenticated by us and is protected against malware.

13. Check for company email atddresses

If you’re receiving communications claiming to be from your bank, an online store, a social network, or any other company, the email should be sent from an email extension registered to that company. Banks do not correspond with their customers from email addresses provided by gmail.com, yahoo.co.uk etc. – it’s safer to avoid sending personal details via email at all if you can avoid it.

14. Do not send or receive money on others’ behalf

Banks do not generally allow UK customers to make transfers overseas using Internet banking services and since many fraudsters are based overseas, they require UK residents to transfer funds for them. If you have received an unsolicited email from a sender asking to transfer money into your account, this money is likely to be stolen from other UK bank accounts. If you comply you are not only aiding criminals, which is an offence, but you’re also giving these people access to your bank account.

15. Destroy financial data when throwing it away

There are opportunities for thieves to gain access to your online accounts without going through your computer – people regularly throw away confidential financial information, including paper copies of online banking logins and so on. Ensure that you destroy any personal information before throwing it away by shredding bank statements and expired cards.

16. Report online fraud

If you think you’ve become a victim of identity theft or cybercrime, report it to the proper authorities immediately. Visit the Action Fraud site for more information.