How to stay safe
There are a number of steps you can take to protect yourself from becoming the victim of a scam. Take a look at things to watch out for, and what you can do to keep your data safe.
What should I look out for?
Scammers will often contact people by phone (vishing), text (smishing) or email (phishing) and claim to be bank staff before asking for sensitive information such as PINs and passwords. Let’s look at vishing, smishing and phishing in more detail.
Criminals call unexpectedly and claim to be from your bank so that they can persuade you to transfer money to another account for safekeeping, or divulge personal information that can be used to access your finances. If this happens, hang up the phone and call your bank on another handset to check if the call was genuine.
Suspicious text messages that may appear to have been sent by your bank could be from criminals trying to get you to call a number or follow a website link. If you’re in doubt and not expecting a message, tell us about it, then delete it.
If you’ve received an email or text message that you weren’t expecting, do not click on links and don’t download attachments. They could be methods for criminals to infect your device with viruses, or ways to get you to enter your personal or financial information into a fake website, which could lead to your device being compromised, your identity being stolen, or your accounts being accessed.
Personal information such as your name, address, date of birth and your mother’s maiden name is valuable to criminals because they can use it when attempting to open bank accounts, get credit, or take over your account. It’s crucial to keep these details private, especially on social media, and to destroy bank statements instead of just throwing them away.
It’s common for fraudsters to offer items for sale that do not exist, especially when it’s something that’s in high demand. Check if you know the name of the retailer and only purchase goods from reputable companies that you recognise and trust. Remember that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Coronavirus / COVID-19 and online security
Using fear and anxiety to target people was common with COVID-19 (read more about COVID-19 fears used in scams) and topical stories will invariably be used again in the future. Don’t be panicked into making a purchase or paying a penalty, and always check the source of the communication.
What can I do to stay safe online?
There’s loads of small but effective ways you can help to keep yourself safe online.
- When you’re connecting to your bank online, make sure you’re using a secure internet connection. That’s because free public Wi-Fi may not be secure and your online banking could be viewed by others on the network
- Look for 'https' at the beginning of the website address and a padlock symbol in your browser's address bar. While this does not guarantee that the website is safe, it is another indicator which can be used along with your other checks
- Using strong passwords and PINs, and using different ones for each website, means that it’ll be difficult for anyone to guess and access your information
- Don’t use dictionary words as your password; instead use a phrase that incorporates multiple words, numbers and special characters
- Don’t tell anyone your passwords or PINs and don't write them down
- Change your password or PIN immediately if you think someone may know them
- If you’re in a public area, be aware of who is around you and if they can see your screen or hear your conversation on the phone
- Having up-to-date antivirus or antispyware software before you log in to your bank account will give you peace of mind and will help to protect you from cyber attacks
- Setting a password or PIN on your smartphone and tablet will give you an extra layer of security if it falls into the wrong hands
There’s also lots of great advice available from national organisations.
Take Five to Stop Fraud
Take Five is a national campaign that offers advice to help consumers prevent financial fraud. This includes email deception and phone-based scams as well as online fraud- particularly where criminals impersonate trusted organisations. Find out more about the campaign by visiting the Take Five Stop Fraud website.
Get safe online
Get Safe Online is a public / private sector partnership supported by HM Government and is a source of information on online safety that gives advice on how to protect yourself, your computers and mobile devices against fraud, identity theft, viruses and other problems encountered online. Find out more by visiting the Get safe online website.
National Cyber Security Centre
The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is a government initiative which supports both businesses and individuals by providing advice on how to protect yourself and your family and the technology you use. Find out more by visiting the NCSC website.