Keeping your money safe online

It is a sad fact of life that wherever there is money there are criminals trying to separate you from it.

We know the traditional scams. But what about online?  

Online is now where we do our banking and increasingly manage our savings, investment, and even pensions. Its where we access our money, and where criminals are trying to do the same.

In 2024 the successful criminal no longer has a stocking mask or a bag marked swag. Instead he has a computer (or more likely a room full of computers) and is working on ingenious new ways to use them to part us from our money.

It is estimated that in 2022, people in the UK lost over £1.2 billion to fraud, which is equivalent to £2,300 every minute. With more and more of our financial business conducted online, the list of online scams is growing. 

But before you decide to cut up your cards, dump your smartphone and start keeping cash in your mattress, remember that protecting yourself online can actually be very simple. You just need to recognise the basic scams that fraudsters will attempt to use online and take some basic steps to protect yourself.

Scams are designed to steal either your money, or your personal details, which the scammer can then use to steal your money at leisure. They break down into three main types:

Technical exploits where the aim is to install the scammers software on your computer. This will let them track what you do online, and possibly give them access to your accounts.

Identity theft, where the scammer will steal your details such as logins and passwords, which will then be used to impersonate you online and steal your money, if not directly then by taking out loans in your name.

Impersonation scams where somebody pretends to be someone they’re not online and will try to gain your confidence to persuade you to do things that deliver your money over to them.

There are many variations on these basic scams, and scammers are constantly coming out with new variations. But however clever they are, you can protect yourself online with some simple precautions. Here is our guide to beating the scammers.

  • Be wary of all emails – especially those you were not expecting. They may look genuine, but scammers can ‘spoof’ senders’ details.  Watch out for red flags: if the email does not address you by name, if it has spelling mistakes, if the sender’s details are unfamiliar there could be something wrong. Contact the sender by phone if you want to make sure it is genuine. Block the sender who sent the spoofing email, and don’t follow any links if you are suspicious. Clicking on a link could install malicious software on your computer.
  • Ensure your anti-virus is up to date and enabled – it can detect malicious software – known as malware – and prevent it being installed on your computer. Regularly use it to run a full scan on your computer just to be safe.
  • Change the passwords for your email accounts. Changing your email login password is a chore, but it helps stop criminals logging into your email account to steal your data, and pretend to be you online. Doing it every six months should be routine.
  • Change the passwords for other online accounts. Its not just your emails that have login details scammers want to steal and misuse. The details you have for online banking, and for any businesses you have an online account with could be valuable to someone ready to impersonate you. Even your social media accounts could be at risk. Update them regularly, and make sure you use a different password for each account.   
  • Beware social engineering. Social engineering, also known as ‘phishing’ is where people will contact you – often by phone – to try and get you to reveal your logins and other data, or even to move money to another account ‘to prevent it being stolen’. They may claim to be from a company you have used before, or even your bank. They can be very persuasive. The answer is simply to never give your details out, no matter who your caller claims to be. They will often claim that it is an emergency, and that you need to act fast – this is simply to make sure that you don’t have time to think. Put the phone down and call the number you know for whoever the caller claims to be calling from, ideally on another phone, to check if there really is a problem.
  • Don’t trust offers that sound too good to be true. They probably are – be particularly wary of websites with investments and pension transfer opportunities that offer astonishing returns.

Get some help with staying safe

The best way to keep your money safe online is to make sure you do business with people you know you can trust.

At Continuum we always do professional due diligence on the financial providers we recommend, and our email system is secure as we have anti-phishing and anti-spam measures in place.

If in doubt, remember – we are always ready to help.

The information contained in this article is based on the opinion of Continuum and does not constitute financial advice, you should seek independent financial advice before embarking on any course of action.

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