Staying safe online

The World Wide Web is still a new and expanding frontier. Just as there are honest, hard-working pioneers, there are the modern day confidence tricksters as well. The methods these fraudsters use to gain access to your credit card information have become increasingly sophisticated. It's like a game of cat and mouse and even the most sensible and vigilant can be caught out by a clever scam sometimes. You can only do your best to ensure that it isn't you. That means being aware of the common tricks they use, both online and offline.

Here are a few to look out for...

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"Like its misspelt name suggests, this is when a fraudster use a piece of disguised bait, hoping you'll bite"

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Phishing

Like its misspelt name suggests, this is when a fraudster use a piece of disguised bait, hoping you'll bite. You're just as likely to get phishing phone calls as e-mails. In this case, they'll contact you pretending to be your bank, building society or credit card provider, querying a matter on your 'account'.

So how do you tell a phisher from the real thing? Always be wary of anybody who starts asking for account details and numbers (especially if they're telling you that you're owed money for any reason). If it really is your bank, they'll know these already. A bank may ask you security questions instead to verify your identity, based on answers you've previously supplied. If you're asked to say or key in your PIN number, disconnect, discontinue and disengage immediately. NEVER divulge this to anybody.

Accomplished fraudsters will do their best to make every message or phone call feel genuine – even to the point of setting up fake helplines with bogus office noise in the background. If you're given a number to call, double check it against your card bill or the provider's website. It's far too easy to be taken in.

Danger in your inbox

Sometimes you may get phishing e-mails that appear to be from financial service providers. They'll look authentic at first glance – the same logo and typeface design - but careful study reveals them to be fake. Bad spelling and grammar is a dead giveaway, and be suspicious if it doesn't address you by name. Obviously if it's from a bank you're not actually with, then it's easy to spot - but the law of averages says that they may guess correctly eventually.

If the e-mail asks you to log on to a site to enter your personal details, just delete it or, if you prefer, forward it the credit card provider's fraud investigation team. Don't click on a link within an email because doing so might give the fraudsters access to information stored on your computer. NEVER open an attachment you're not 100% sure of – it may well be a ‘Trojan' program that sets up a back door into your computer system. Ensure you have internet security software installed and that it's kept up to date.

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"Pharming (also called page-jacking) is when you are redirected to a bogus version of a website which may look identical to the website you were trying to view"

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Pharming

Pharming (also called page-jacking) is when you are redirected to a bogus version of a website which may look identical to the website you were trying to view. In this scam, the legitimate web address you entered into your browser changes and redirects you to a fake site, which looks very similar to the real thing. This can happen as a result of spyware infection (see below). You could also visit the fake site by accident.

The scam website will concentrate on collecting personal details that the real site might not ask for – account numbers, card details etc. In contrast, you'll find that legitimate websites are usually encrypted to protect your details.

You can tell if a site is genuine if:

  • It has "https:" rather than "http:" and the start of the internet address
  • It has a closed padlock or unbroken key icon at the bottom right corner of your browser window

If these are missing or there is an open padlock or broken key icon present, the website is not secure and could be a scam site. On no account use your credit card, or enter your personal details.

"Spyware is a type of malicious software (also called ‘malware') that scammers try to install on your computer. As the name suggests, it will spy on what you are doing: the websites you visit, the files you use and the details you store on your PC"

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The spy in your computer

A virus in your PC can affect its performance, maybe delete files and have other unfortunate results. You'll know about a virus if you get one, but there is another sneakier infection you need to be aware of too. Spyware is a type of malicious software (also called ‘malware') that scammers try to install on your computer. As the name suggests, it will spy on what you are doing: the websites you visit, the files you use and the details you store on your PC.

One type of spyware is a key-logger. This will secretly record what keys you press on your keyboard and then send this data back to the scammer over the internet. They're hoping they can spot you entering numbers, passwords and other personal information.

So how does the spyware get onto your computer? Surprisingly easily. Clicking on a link in a dodgy e-mail or even just visiting the wrong website can be all it takes.

Look out for:

  • A pop-up box appearing on your screen which may have a simple question or a button that says ‘close'. Just by clicking on this, you may be allowing the spyware to be downloaded
  • New icons on your computer screen, or your computer is not as fast as it normally is
  • Music files, games, or access to adult sites offered free of charge as long as you download a particular program
  • Check boxes that mean you agree to download a browser hijacker, alongside the program you really wanted

Even the most experienced computer user can make a mistake and allow a spyware infection. This can potentially put credit card and other details at risk. So ensure you have an internet security program with spyware detection built in. If it does happen, there are dedicated spyware removal tools you can download to take care of it.

As you can see, there are plenty of reasons to tread carefully when shopping online (even when not actually shopping). Also be very wary of carrying out financial transactions on a laptop, tablet or mobile phone using a public Wi-Fi network. It's possible that these could be intercepted by criminal hackers.

Know if you're accepted before you apply with QuickCheck

  • Get credit - up to £1,500
  • QuickCheck won’t affect your credit rating
  • Get a fast response in 60 seconds
Check Now 34.9% APR Representative (variable)
Intelligent Lending Ltd (Credit Broker). Capital One is the exclusive lender

Know if you're accepted before you apply with QuickCheck

  • Get credit - up to £1,500
  • QuickCheck won’t affect your credit rating
  • Get a fast response in 60 seconds
Check Now 34.9% APR Representative (variable)
Intelligent Lending Ltd (Credit Broker). Capital One is the exclusive lender