There are a lot of ways that you can protect yourself from becoming an easy target for these criminals. Here are the main ways to ensure your online and your offline self is as safe as possible.
Check it’s really us
If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from the Nottingham Building Society and you're unsure if it's really us, please contact our customer service team who will be more than happy to confirm if it was us calling you.
Post and important documents
- When you move house, remember to change your address or cancel any mail that you no longer want to receive
- Dispose of your important documents with things like account numbers and access codes on by shredding them.
- Review your social media privacy settings. This is where you can see who can access your data and posts. Remove addresses, phone numbers and other personal details from Facebook that don’t need to be on there
- Don’t share private information publicly on social media such as your address and date of birth
- Be wary of the personal information that you share online such as pet’s names or favourite places as these are commonly used for passwords and people can easily work these out.
- Remember that three random words can make the strongest password. GreenPhoneLeopard or CactusPizzaStamp are random combinations that we’ve created from simply looking around our desks. Think out of the box - the more random, the better!
- Don’t keep all of your passwords the same, if you’re worried about forgetting them all, use a Password Manager such as LastPass.
- Set up two factor authentication for your email if this is available with your provider. This means that you will need two factors to get logged in which will be something that you have such as a mobile where your email provider will send a code and you may also need something you know such as a PIN or a password.
- Remember to have a passcode on tablets, laptops and phones and don’t leave them unattended if they are unlocked. This has to be as random as your other passwords so don’t leave it as 1234 or your date of birth if this is something that people are likely to know.
Check website safety
To check whether a website is safe to visit and there will be no risk to your details or identity you can check the site’s security information.
Some internet search engines like Google Chrome will let you know if a page is secure by showing you a padlock for a secure site, an i within a circle for something that is ‘Not secure’ and an exclamation mark in a red triangle if it is ‘Not secure’ or ‘Dangerous’.
A security certificate can be seen when a website’s server uses a certificate provider to prove its identity to the browser. HTTPS is a secure connection.
Other things that you can do to ensure a site is safe for you to use are double checking the web address as fraudsters can use similar names to common sites in order to scam people. For example, our website is https://www.bbc.co.uk but it could be easy to read https://www.bbbc.co.uk correctly if you are skimming or reading quickly. Also make sure that you watch out for other tell-tale signs of a fake website like pixelated images or spelling mistakes.
Protect your devices
Protecting your devices such as smartphones, laptops and tablets is just as important as making sure that you don’t leave important documents lying around. Here are five ways that you can protect your data, information and identity through your phone or device.
- Make sure that it’s locked at all times that you’re not using it. Most phones auto-lock if you have left them for a certain amount of time but try to get into the habit of physically locking it yourself when you are finished. When your phone is locked, people cannot access data or apps that are stored on it.
- Keep it up to date. It might be annoying updating apps and your phone’s operating system every few weeks but they often make these changes to update security settings so you’ll be doing yourself a favour to update these things.
- Avoid insecure brands. Brands such as Apple iPhones and Google Pixel phones continue to receive updates when they are a few years old which make them fairly secure.
- Encryption is key to protecting your phone if you lose it or it is stolen.
- Be wary of viruses and malware when it comes to downloading things onto your laptop. Be careful to not download something that is not from a mainstream vendor such as the iTunes store or the Google Play Store. Plus, scan your laptop periodically for viruses.
QR code scams
How many times have you had to scan a QR code to access a website, such as in a pub so that you can order your drinks? Have you ever thought if the site it takes you to is genuine? Fraudsters are now using the fact that some companies use QR codes to access your money.
Channel 5 programme, Phone Scams – Don’t Get Caught Out, explains how these scams are becoming more common. A victim unfortunately lost £25,000 when her bank supposedly called to explain her account has been hacked and she needed to scan the QR code they will email her to access her new account. Unfortunately this allowed the scammers to access her account when she scanned the code and used her personal details to access the account.
Tips for avoiding these scams:
- Always be wary when scanning a QR code as they could contain links to fake websites or contain malware.
- Preview the URL before following the QR code and see if the address seems correct - your phone will tell you the destination to which a QR code is trying to send you.
- Be extremely cautious of QR codes in public places. Ask a member of the staff if you’re in a restaurant or shop if the website the QR is talking you to is correct.
- Look for signs that you’ve landed on a fraudulent website including misspelled words and typos, unprofessional design and low-resolution images. Secure sites use HTTPS (not HTTP) and will display a padlock icon near their URL.
- Never download a QR code scanning app: Only use your phone’s camera. You don’t need any other tools to use a QR code.
- Install antivirus software and malware protection and keep your phone software up to date.
Scan this QR code to read more about QR code fraud with scam expert Alexis Conran.
Logging onto the internet from almost anywhere has to be one of the most convenient things that we are able to do in this day and age. But, it can be a hotbed for insecurity and therefore you could be opening yourself up to become a target for online criminals. Public WiFi hotspots are not as secure as your home network because you don’t know who has set them up or who else is also connected to the same hotspot as you. Here are some good tips for using public WiFi hotspots in the most secure way.
- Stick to well-known networks such as The Cloud or your favourite chain of coffee shop or department store. No public WiFi spot is completely secure but using a well-known brand’s connection rather than a random free connection that you’ve never heard of before is safer.
- Don’t use the public WiFi for sensitive information and things like online banking.
- Use HTTPS. This means that other people using the same network as you won’t be able to see what you’re browsing or doing on the internet.
- Don’t sign up to public WiFI hotspots if they are asking for too much information such as your name, age and address. If you have to give someone your email address to log into their WiFi, make sure it’s a shop, cafe or restaurant that you trust.
- Switch off AirDrop and Bluetooth. This is cutting off what is called ‘frictionless file sharing’ and it means that no-one nearby can grab any of your files or send you something that you don’t want to receive.
- Check terms and conditions of WiFi, even if it’s from a brand that you know. Chances are they will be asking for your email address to send you some marketing, but it’s best to check the terms and conditions.
- Use a VPN. This is a Virtual Private Network and by installing one of these onto your device the data travelling to and from your laptop or tablet will automatically be encrypted. Using a VPN, you’ll be linked to a secure server and it’ll be harder for people to get access to your details. Make sure your VPN is a legitimate one, paying for one could be your best bet as the free ones may be financed by marketing companies for data collection.
If you have a large data allowance on your mobile phone contract it could be best to use this for your out-of-home surfing.
There's a saying that nothing in life is free and this is sometimes true in the world of web applications and digital services. When signing up for 'free' services such as Dropbox to store files and photographs it is always worth taking the time to understand the true cost of the ‘free’ service. Check what rights you have, or are giving up over any data you share or upload to the platform.
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