Online banking: How to stay safe

Updated on 07 September 2012

If you bank online, follow these top tips to keep your money safe from fraudsters.

Common online banking scams


Phishing involves sending hoax emails which attempt to extract your bank details and personal security data. Often the sender will claim to be from your own bank and will ask you to verify your current account details by clicking on a link. But this link actually takes you through to a fake website which looks exactly like your bank's own site. Once you have inputted your details they are available to the fraudsters who set the fake site up.

Read Eight ways to spot a phishing scam for more.


Vishing is where the fraudsters cold call you, pretending to be from your bank's fraud or security department. They'll claim that a suspicious transaction has been flagged up or that you may be due a refund. They are attempting to gain your trust in an effort to glean more of your personal details, and even your passwords.

Text phishing

Much like phishing, but this time with the use of a text message. The text will be designed to try to trick you into sharing some personal information with the fraudsters.


Malware - or malicious software - is a computer virus which can be installed on your PC without you even realising it. Fraudsters will encourage you to open an email attachment, but in doing so you'll have unwittingly unleashed a Trojan virus which can monitor your PC activity, allowing fraudsters to steal your passwords and other personal information.

Money mules

Where the perpetrator is based abroad it can be very difficult to move the proceeds of fraudulent activity in the UK back to the perpetrator's country. This is where a money mule comes in.

Fraudsters usually make contact by email and try to persuade you to accept money into your bank account for a seemingly legitimate reason. You are then asked to wire the funds overseas, sometimes in return for a fee. Money mules can be prosecuted even if they weren't aware the transaction was illegal.

Top tips for protecting against online banking fraud

Now you've got a good idea of what typical online banking scams look like, let's take a look at the best ways of protecting yourself against them with these top tips:

  • Always install up-to-date anti-virus software and a firewall to protect your PC.
  • Always download the latest security updates for your system.
  • Always set your browser at the highest level of security notification.
  • Delete suspicious emails immediately.
  • Treat all emails claiming to be sent from your bank with caution, even if they appear legitimate.
  • Remember your bank will never ask for your login details or personal security data by email.
  • Never open an email attachment from an unknown source.
  • Don't open an attachment from someone you know unless you're expecting to receive it. Their PC could have been taken over without them knowing.
  • Scam emails often ask you to click a link which takes you through to a fake website. This may look identical to your bank's own website - don't fall for it.
  • If you think you might have received a scam email, report it to
  • Only complete online transactions where the URL in the address bar says 'https' and not just 'http'. The 's' stands for secure.
  • Never reveal your passwords or your PIN to anyone.
  • Never leave your PC unattended when you're logged into an online banking service.
  • Check your accounts regularly for suspicious activity. Alert your bank immediately if you come across a potentially fraudulent transaction. 

A safe way to bank online

Our MoneyTrack service is a great way to manage your money, as it keeps all your bank accounts and credit cards in one place, allowing you to keep track of your income and expenditure easily. In other words, the days of managing multiple account details are over. With our service everything is in one place, with one set of details.  

It enables you to monitor your accounts frequently. That way you can spot any transactions you don't recognise quickly, and report fraudulent activity to your bank where it can be investigated.

Note that no transactions can be made or money moved using MoneyTrack. The service is designed to allow you to see where your money goes in a 'read-only' format. So it's a safe way to check what's going on with your accounts.

Of course, just as with your own bank, security is our number one priority too. You can find out how we protect your personal information by checking out the security FAQs

This is a classic article that has been updated.

More on banking:

Your essential banking guide

Does free banking still exist?

The best student bank accounts


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