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Stay safe online

Thu 01 Dec 2016

So in the run up to Christmas, when most of us will be purchasing gifts online, we should all take extra care to keep our data and identities safe from cyber criminals.

Follow these basic precautions to stay safe online...

Keep personal and financial information secure

It may sound obvious, but do not give any personal information (name, address, bank details, email or phone number) to organisations or people before verifying their credentials. Fraudsters are very clever at making things look genuine and it's easy to fall prey.

Be extremely wary of post, phone calls or emails offering you deals out of the blue. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you receive bills, invoices or receipts for things you haven't bought, or if financial institutions you don't normally deal with contact you about outstanding debts, take action. Your identity may have been stolen. Always question it.

Many frauds start with a phishing email. Remember that banks and financial institutions will not send you an email asking you to click on a link and confirm your bank details. Do not trust such emails, even if they look genuine. You can always call your bank using the phone number on a genuine piece of correspondence, website (typed directly into the address bar) or the phone book to check if you're not sure.

Make sure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus software and a firewall installed, and that it gets regular security updates. Familiarise yourself with your browser security settings, to ensure it's set to the highest level of security notification and monitoring, to prevent malware issues and computer crimes.

Secure websites

Sign-up to Verified by Visa or MasterCard Secure Code whenever you are given the option while shopping online. This involves you registering a password with your card company and adds an additional layer of security to online transactions with signed-up retailers.

If you're about to make an online transaction or hand over personal or financial information, make sure the website you're on is secure. You can do this by checking the url in the address bar at the top of your screen.

If it begins with "https" and you can see a padlock symbol , you can go ahead, because the "s" means that any date you enter is "secure". If the url starts with "http" - without the "s" - then the website isn't designed to collect data securely. Which means any data you share could be stolen by fraudsters.


Phishing is a method used by fraudsters to access valuable personal details, such as usernames and passwords. These can have a monetary value to criminals. Phishing can also involve sending malicious attachments or website links in an effort to infect computers or mobile devices. Criminals send bogus communications: emails, letters, instant messages or text messages.

Very often these appear to be authentic communications from legitimate organisations. Embedded links within the message can direct you to a hoax website where your login or personal details may be requested. You may also run the risk of your computer or smartphone being infected by viruses.

Once your personal details have been accessed, criminals can then record this information and use it to commit fraud crimes such as identity theft and bank fraud.

Phishing messages generally try to convince the recipient that they are from a trusted source. "Spear-phishing" is a technique whereby criminals use personal information to earn trust and lower the intended victim's defences, increasing the chances they may open attachments or embedded links.

For more information on staying safe online you can visit Get Safe Online or Financial Fraud Action UK.

At Police Mutual we are serious about security and we take all sensible precautions to protect your data - we want you to do the same. Together we can beat the cyber criminals.


Type of article: Articles
Category: Wellbeing

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