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How to protect your money online

Posted 22 February 2016

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Do you know how to protect your money online? Read our blog for the low-down on how to protect your details and safe-guard your money in the online world.

Here at Debt Advisory Centre we love giving you all our best tips to help you save money and cut costs. But sometimes, it’s more about money-safeguarding than money saving, and that’s what today’s blog is all about. 

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With the recent hacking scandals that have rocked some companies like TalkTalk and Vodafone, you may be forgiven for feeling a little uneasy about how secure your details are. If these big companies can’t always protect their systems and information, how are you supposed to? How do you really know whether hackers with criminal intent can get their hands on your private information and how do you purchase online safely? Well, even though you may hear reports of big companies getting hacked and their customer’s information being stolen, it’s important to remember that there are simple things we can all do that will, at the very least, make it a lot harder to become a victim of cyber-crime. 

In this blog we’re going to give you some easy to follow tips to stay safe online. If you follow our advice you can rest assured that you’re doing everything you can to minimise the risk of scammers and hackers with criminal intent getting their hands on your details and your money. 

Update your anti-virus software

Do you ever see pop-ups on your machine asking you to allow updates to your anti-virus software? If you do it’s best not to ignore them. One of the ways that hackers can get into your computer is by exploiting weaknesses in security systems that have not been updated. So make sure that your anti-virus software is renewed and up-to-date.

You can find out how to update your software here at Cyber streetwise, and if you’re yet to install any anti-virus software PC Advisor will point you in the right direction. Here you can find out the difference between the free and paid varieties, and look through the top fifteen best antivirus software packages for PC and Laptop. 

Create great passwords

On the one hand you want a great password, but on the other hand – you just want to be able to remember it! Most of us understand the important of having a strong password if we bank or buy online but we all seem to have so many passwords nowadays, it can feel like your head’s swimming with them. If this is you, don’t worry, there is a way to get the best of both worlds. 

 The way do to this is to pick something specific to you but mix it up in some way, creating a variation that would be very hard for anyone to guess. So, if you already have a word in mind, spell it differently or combine it together with one or two other words to make it longer. You could use numbers in place of certain letters, or deliberately spell the words you’re using incorrectly. In general, you should make your passwords as long as possible and avoid re-using passwords and using names, places and dates of birth. If you follow all these mini-tips you should end up with a password that looks like complete gobbledegook at first glance, but makes perfect sense to you. 

Watch out for bogus adverts and endorsements on social media

It’s really important that we check who we’re handing our money over to when we buy online. Don’t assume that the adverts you see on social media are genuine, even if they seem to have a celebrity endorsing them. It’s not unknown for scammers to use a picture of a well-known person from another publication to draw attention to their product and encourage people to buy. Once you do supply them with your card details, you may not receive anything at all, and if you do it’s unlikely to be the high quality product that you were hoping for. The point of the scam is that the fraudsters now have your card details which they can sell on to other scammers. 

One way to avoid this is to simply search the company that is trying to sell you something on Google. If you see lots of negative customer reviews this is a clear warning to stay away. If they seem to be endorsed by a celebrity, Google the celebrity to see whether there’s any real evidence of them being connected with the product, or if there’s any mention of the product on their social media pages. 

Protect your money when you buy online

Using a payment gateway service like PayPal is also a good way to protect your money from scammers. If you buy an item that doesn’t arrive or doesn’t match the description provided by the seller, PayPal’s buyer protection scheme will reimburse you for the full amount of the item plus postage and packaging costs. With PayPal you’re not liable for any unauthorised purchases made from your account giving you further protection if your details are sold on. To open a PayPal account click here, and for more information on how PayPal can protect your online purchases have a look here

If you’re paying for something over £100 then consider whether you could use your credit card rather than a debit card to do this as, if you do, your money will be protected under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. This states that if you buy something (either online or in-store) and something goes wrong, your credit card provider is jointly liable along with the retailer. So, if the product doesn’t arrive, it’s not as the retailer described, or the company goes out of business, your credit card provider will provide you with a full refund. This applies to foreign transactions and you don’t even have to have paid the full amount on the card – the item itself must be over £100, but you’d still be protected even if you just put part of the payment or the deposit on your card. 

The item must be less than £30,000 for you to be protected by Section 75, and of course, it’s only a good idea to put something on a credit card if you know you can pay it back and avoid getting hit with interest charges. 

Think before you click

You shouldn’t necessarily trust links – especially if you’ve been sent one via a suspicious looking/random email. You can never tell exactly where a link will take you, even if you recognise the name of the company in the link, and this goes for pictures and buttons as well. A scammer could send you a link that looks legitimate but when you follow it, it takes you to their site where you will be tricked into giving them sensitive information. It’s even possible for the criminal to redirect you to the real site afterwards, so you’d never know anything was amiss. 

If you do know the organisation that seems to have emailed you, it’s best to visit their site manually yourself than trust a link in an email. For future reference, these are a few things that your bank (or any financial organisation) will never ask you to do in an email:

• send them personal information, like passwords and pin numbers

• change personal information or change your account altogether

• enter personal/sensitive information in a pop-up window 

• follow a link taking you to your online banking page

• verify your account details or a recent transaction

 

If you’ve lost money due to a scam, it’s not always possible to get it back, however Which? have some methods you can try. If you need to report a scam, click here.

Our mission at Debt Advisory Centre to help people manage their money successfully and get out of problem debt. If you feel that your debt repayments are no longer manageable, make sure you use the options to the left and get in touch with one of our advisors. With their experience and expert knowledge they’ll find the right solution for you. 

 

by Christine Walsh

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To find out more about managing your money and getting free debt advice, visit Money Advice Service, an independent service set up to help people manage their money.