Protect yourself from fraud

We hear a lot about identify fraud these days, and whilst it is true that incidences have risen over the past five years or so, it is not the case that we should all be panicking. Taking a few simple precautions should be enough to keep you (and your identity) safe online and offline.

Counterfeit cards

Some counterfeiters operate through something called skimming: they take your card (perhaps when you leave it behind the bar or give it to a waiter after a meal) and then run it through a card reader that takes and stores the information on your card. This information is used to make a counterfeit card that operates through your account.

Protect yourself from skimming by keeping your card in sight at all times.

'Card not present' fraud

These days, fraudsters can take advantage of you (and your money!) without ever having been in the presence of your credit or debit card. They do this by gathering the necessary information (name, card number, valid-to and valid-from dates) from receipts you have thrown out, and then using this information to go online shopping.

Protect yourself by checking receipts before you throw them out, and shredding any which contain sensitive information.

Identity theft/fraud

When someone impersonates you, normally to obtain goods or services, they are committing identity theft. One of the most prevalent instances of identity theft happens when someone assumes your identity and uses is to apply for financial products like credit cards or loans. This can then affect your credit rating and lead to you being turned down for a credit card, loan or mortgage when you legitimately apply for one.

Identity theft becomes identity fraud -- and thus a crime -- when someone deceptively uses that identity to obtain goods or services.

Here are our best tips for protecting your identity:

  • keep your card in sight at all times when making purchases
  • check receipts and statements carefully before you throw them out, and shred anything that contains sensitive information
  • go over your statements to make sure all transactions are legitimate
  • contact your bank as soon as you suspect any card is missing
  • keep some space around you when you pay for things via CHIP & PIN -- if someone is hovering just over your shoulder, ask them to step back
  • Redirect all post to new address when you move

Presently, the issuer of the card will bear the financial cost of any fraudulent activity. As a cardholder, you are liable for a maximum of £50 for fraudulent transactions, but most issuers waive even this amount. The crucial thing is to alert your card issuer as soon as you notice anything amiss, whether it is a card unaccounted for or an unremembered charge on your statement.

It should go without saying that any kind of gross negligence (writing your PIN on your card) or involvement in the fraud itself will shift the burden of responsibility off the bank and onto you.

Steer clear of phishy business

No article on fraud prevention would be complete without a mention of phishing. Phishing is a practice whereby fraudsters send out emails that ask for your bank details. Some of these emails are very grand stories of inheritances denied and promises to pay you colossal amounts for your help, whilst others are just disguised as letters from your bank.

The one thing that gives away any phishing email is the information they ask for: no legitimate bank will EVER ask for personal financial details over email. If you get an email that does, delete it. Don’t click the link in it, as it will take you to a fake website. And when you do make banking transactions online, check the URL in the address bar -- it should read ‘https’ not just ‘http’. That ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’.

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