Cifas is warning of a surge in identity fraud as cases filed to the National Fraud Database increased by 11% in the first six months of 2022, which is up a third from last year.
Action Fraud reported that during the festive period last year, which includes Black Friday and Cyber Monday, buyers shopping online lost £15.3m – an average loss of almost £1000 per victim.
Unfortunately, the bad news doesn’t end there. According to the Cifas Chief Executive, we are more vulnerable to fraud, with criminals targeting people during the current economic crisis.
"On average, Cifas members file a case to the National Fraud Database every two minutes, with three in five of these cases relating to identity fraud."
Fraud prevention tips for the festive season
It’s not all doom and gloom, as we have some tips to help keep your money and information safe this festive season.
1. Watch out for scams & use common sense
If it sounds too good to be true, it almost always is. Don't feel pressured into making a purchase for fear of missing out - it makes you more vulnerable. Remember to check the reviews and ratings of sites that you have not used before.
2. Only shop from legitimate websites
Carry out your searches yourself and avoid clicking on links in emails or on social media promising great deals. Adverts can look like they are from legitimate retailers, but they have been created by fraudsters.
3. Keep anti-virus software up-to-date on all devices
Make sure that you download any updates as soon as they become available in order to protect yourself. If you click on a link or download an attachment in an email, hackers might inject malware into your device which could steal your login credentials or your payment information.
4. Don't use public WiFi when shopping online
Public WiFi is not secure and can be easily mimicked or hacked. You should be especially careful to avoid accessing sensitive sites like your bank. If you need to use public WiFi, turn on a VPN which will make it impossible for hackers to intercept.
5. Don't respond to unsolicited messages
That includes texts, tweets, phone calls or emails. Be particularly careful with links in messages, as they may not be as authentic or genuine as they sound. If in doubt, double-check with the retailer if the email you have received is legitimate.
6. Use strong passwords
For all your accounts, particularly when shopping online. Don't use the same password across multiple sites, and never share your passwords. By following this guidance, you're less likely to fall victim to hackers.
7. Check that URLs match retailer's genuine domain
Ensure there's a secure padlock sign on the payment page before you buy. Watch out for poor spelling and low-quality images, as they may indicate a 'spoof' site created in a rush. Even if the URL looks like that of a trusted retailer, it could be a retailer scam where the URL almost precisely matches the retailer's website.
8. Opt out of saving details
If retailers ask if you'd like to save your payment details, decline. It is important to never save your bank details with any online store, even if you are sure it is a legitimate website.
9. Use a credit card for purchases over £100
It offers you greater fraud protection. Credit cards typically provide an extra layer of security as they are not linked to your money, and your credit card supplier is jointly liable with the supplier for any fraudulent activity. This is particularly ideal for larger purchases that are over £100.
10. Turn on alerts from your card issuer or bank
Then you will immediately be notified if any irregular spending occurs. Without notifications turned on, you might miss the opportunity to nip the fraudulent activity in the bud.
11. Check your social media privacy settings
Sharing too much information online makes you an easy target for identity theft. Ensure that you guard against fraudsters accessing your information by double-checking your privacy and security setting across your social media accounts.
12. Sign out of your account when you've finished
This is crucial if you're using a shared computer. Staying signed in opens the door to the theft of your personal information and hacking opportunities.
Helpful sites for more advice on fraud
Take Five is a national campaign offering straightforward, impartial advice to help everyone protect themselves from preventable financial fraud. This includes email deception and phone-based scams as well as online fraud – particularly where criminals impersonate trusted organisations.
Financial Fraud Action UK
Financial Fraud Action UK is responsible for leading the collective fight against financial fraud on behalf of the UK payments industry. Their membership includes banks, credit, debit and charge card issuers, and card payment acquirers in the UK.
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