December 16, 2014

Staying secure online: don’t let identity fraud ruin your Christmas

Did you know that more than a quarter of the UK adult population has fallen victim to identity theft?

That’s millions of people who have had their confidential information taken and used for nefarious purposes. The government estimates that identity fraud costs the UK £3.3 billion every year and on a personal level, this crime can be devastating.  Earlier this year, Get Safe Online published this comprehensive infographic highlighting more eye-opening facts and figures.

So what exactly is identity theft? It’s the crime of impersonating someone, by using their personal information, for financial gain. From stealing bank statements from bins to pick-pocketing wallets stuffed with credit cards, driving license and other personal information, identity theft has always been an issue in the UK, but as online shopping and social networking becomes more and more popular, identity thieves have more ways than ever to target your sensitive data.  You may think dealing with the consequences of identity theft is simple – only a matter of inconvenience and time spent rectifying the situation – but in many cases it can be incredibly distressing, both financially and emotionally.

At this time of year, people are particularly vulnerable as they search for a festive bargain. Research by credit card company Capital One suggested that last year nearly half of all UK adults did their Christmas shopping online. However, in the midst of this shopping fervour, consumers could be putting their information at risk if they are not buying from a trusted, secure site, or if they do not regularly use or update passwords.

To help you navigate this seasonal security risk, Shred-it has put together some tips for how to protect your information online.

1. Ensure password security
It may be tempting to use the same password for all your accounts but if an identity thief breached one of these then they would technically have access to all your data. By using different passwords for each account, you can maximise security. It’s also important to have passwords which are secure: don’t fall into the trap of using “password” or personal details, such as your date of birth. 

2. Use secure websites
Avoid any websites that don’t clearly state their company information, including a physical address and phone number. Make sure that the websites have a secure payment section. Check the address bar to see that the URL starts with “https” not just “http”. If it’s the latter, your credit card details may not be safe.

3. Avoid phishing emails
Be vigilant about emails purporting to be from your bank or from websites that you have an account with, asking for passwords or personal information. Your bank will never ask you to send personal information over email. If you’re doubtful, just speak to someone at your bank using the numbers on their official website or on the back of your credit/debit card.

4. Keep your internet settings secure
Having the most up-to-date version of browsers helps to add security to your online activity. Regularly updated anti-virus software is also important.

5. Use your common sense
Does that bargain seem too good to be true? Then it probably is! Do you think the website looks a bit iffy? Then go somewhere else! Saving some cash in the short term could end up being much more financially detrimental in the long term.

Taking precautions to protect your personal information online this Christmas is a sensible step that certainly doesn’t have to ruin the fun!

Now you have some tips for safe online shopping during the festive season, read up on how to protect your office from identity theft when you get back to work.