With ever changing technology, and the ever present danger of fraudsters, there are now hundreds of ways that we can be victims of fraud. In 2012, according to a Which? report, the British population was victim of more than £6bn of fraud in total.
Let’s break this down a little. Given that the adult population is currently around 50 million people, this equates to over £120 for every single adult in the country each year. Looking in more detail, it is understood in this report that 1 in 10 people were a victim of fraud in that year. This means that the average person who was victim of these frauds lost over £1,000 each.
The even bigger concern is that the majority of these frauds are designed to prey upon the vulnerable in today’s society.
What are the different types of fraud to watch out for?
NatWest have recently launched a pretty cool infographic to explain the top 11 different types of fraud in the UK and the annual cost of each. I would recommend you spend some time spinning the wheel and if you click on the button in the middle entitled “protect yourself” for some great tips on how to protect yourself from these different types of fraud.
You can also find the tool here.
The top 3 frauds, in reverse order, are:
- Face-to-face fraud => when your card is physically taken or cloned and used fraudulently.
- Telephone / Mail Order fraud => the fraudster obtains your card information and uses it to buy products or services over the phone or mail order
- Online shopping fraud => the biggest type of fraud comprises of fraudsters obtaining your credit card information and using the info online to buy goods and services. This is done completely remotely and the criminals only need to obtain your details rather than your actual card or PIN.
Top tips to avoid these different types of fraud
If you click into the detail of each of these, the folks at NatWest have detailed a couple of ways to protect yourself from each type of fraud.
I would also like to add a very rapid 10 point check-list that you can quickly follow to help you protect yourself from all these types of fraud:
- Never respond to an email with any financial information, no matter who it is from. Instead, find a contact telephone number from an independent source and phone the other party to determine why they need your banking information and then, if the original email was genuine, inform the other party of your banking details over the phone. This avoids you sending information to fraudsters directly, and other people hacking into your email account and finding this info.
- When buying online, always check that the retailer actually exists. This sounds a little crazy, but on sites such as eBay or amazon, individual “sellers” may be set up with the primary objective of defrauding their “customers”.
- If making a payment online, always make sure that the address on the payment screen begins with https:// rather than http://. The “s” indicates that the site is “secure”.
- Ignore direct sales and marketing. The majority of the time, aggressive marketing can be a front for fraud (or at very least a bad or unreliable product). Not only will this help you avoid fraud, but will also keep you away from buying products that you don’t need!
- Use a credit card. This is one of the benefits of using credit cards over debit cards as they generally come with much better protection. Effectively, if a fraud is committed on your debit card, the money comes out of your bank and you are more liable for the loss. When the fraud is committed on the credit card, the liability is more so with the credit card provider (Visa, Mastercard, American express, etc) and hence you are better protected personally.
- Never write down your pin. Memorise and never share it with anyone else. Also, carefully hide your PIN when you enter it at an ATM or card terminal. Without access to your PIN, many of the frauds identified by NatWest above will not be possible.
- Regular change your passwords. Do it now. Also, keep different passwords for sensitive services (email, banking, savings, etc). If you do have one password compromised, the last thing you want is for the fraudster to have access to everything!
- Shred personal information such as bank and credit card statements. Better still, don’t have them delivered (saving paper, time and money) and simply view them online. If they are password protected (as above), then this removes the worry of them falling into the wrong hands.
- Just don’t talk on the phone to people you don’t know. The adult version of “say no to strangers”. If someone does ring you and you think it may be genuine, then tell them that you will find their number online and ring the company back, and ask to speak to the person you were previously speaking to. This will ensure that if someone says they are from your bank, they are actually from your bank!
- Avoid exposing any of the information that you use for security questions on social media. Middle names, dates of birth, mother’s maiden names, first pet’s names, favourite football team, etc. All of these are sometimes used as security questions for changing your password and if they are available online, it removes the security layer. Furthermore, lock your social media profile so it is not available to the public!
Unfortunately, fraud is rife in the UK and it is not going away anytime soon. Therefore, you should take all the steps you can to avoid these different types of fraud. Education is the most effective path to protection! Stay safe.