Making purchases online is a part of everyday life for most of us, but how risky is it really?
With household incomes being hammered due to the recession, rising utility bills and petrol price hikes to name a few, the remaining disposable income at the end of the month is shrinking fast.
It is little wonder, therefore, that we are all looking to buy cheaper on the net with discount deals and online sales of many sorts being the most popular.
Britons spent a whooping £44bn on retail shopping online in 2010, a 16% increase on 2009. This translates to an average of £1.284 per person (average 41 items) as compared to our European counterparts £908 (average 25 items). The trend is expected to be higher year on year. You only have to look at this article from the BBC to see that retailers are having a hard time!
Credit card fraud peaked in 2008 at £609.9m from a total spend of £176 billion. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Credit card fraud fell 17 per cent in 2010 compared with the previous year; the total fraud cost being £365 million in the UK.
The banks are working harder than ever to reduce fraud with chip and PIN cards and newer initiatives such as MasterCard SecureCode and Verified by Visa introduced in 2008. You can sign up to these schemes so when paying for goods on line with participating merchants, you will be asked to type in your private code.
So the situation is improving but check you are taking enough precautions against on line fraud? This is our top 9 tips to protecting yourself and your financial details online: –
1. Never give out your personal details or passwords over the phone or to a website you visit through an email link. Your bank will never call you or email you to ask for your username and password. Always be suspicious of these emails and delete them, or better still report them to your bank. Known as “phishing”, these scams are dodgy criminals attempting to relieve you of your log in details.
2. Keep your computer’s anti-virus software up-to-date. This should happen automatically but it is important you ensure you have the latest list of known viruses via updates. This should help to minimise any malicious attacks or software running on your computer against your knowledge when you are shopping online.
3. Don’t venture online to shop without checking you have a firewall enabled. This not only protects you from inbound attacks but also should prevent your computer from sending out spam or giving away your personal information without you even knowing about it.
4. We are all familiar when logging in online of the checkbox asking to “remember my password”. Well, it’s good practice to not tick this, as this stores a cookie on your computer and has a number of possible downsides. Firstly, fraudsters hacking into your computer will look immediately for these stored cookies and secondly, if your computer is stolen, the thief will have your passwords! Cookies are stored on your computer whenever you visit a website, so it is a good idea to clear these regularly.
5. It is a great idea to register your cards with “Verified by Visa” or “MasterCard SecureCode”. Your bank will advise you on this if you are not sure how to do it, or check on line. Most banks request this registration now and it can be activated the first time you use your card online.
6. Asking your bank to specify a certain top limit on your card can help minimise large fraudulent losses.
7. Using credit cards over debit cards is a good idea because you automatically receive protection from your card issuer, which you don’t get with debit cards.
8. When you are about to put your card details into the “buy now” page of a site, check you can see a padlock somewhere on the page. This is often on the bottom right hand corner of your browser. Put simply, this means you are protected as your details are all encrypted. Also check that the URL begins with https rather than http. It is a good idea to type https every time you enter a URL as this ensures any information you send over the connection is encrypted, particularly on public Wi-Fi networks.
9. Finally, avoid buying from sites you have clicked through to from unsolicited spam emails.