For all the resilience the UK economy has shown, there is no doubt that this year's ISA season is set against a backdrop of uncertainty. Whatever the pros and cons, Brexit, and a lack of clarity on what our future economic relationship with the EU will look like, has left us at a crossroads.
Keeping yourself safe from fraud and cybercrime
We’ve written previously about the likelihood of a cashless society in the UK, and one of a number of reasons why such a prospect is unlikely in the short term is due to concerns relating to security with respect to online fraud and cybercrime, particularly when it comes to money.
Of course, the latest cyber attack on over 9,000 Tesco Bank accounts will have done little to enhance the profile of online security among sceptics either. At this early stage, it remains to be seen what the specific cause was, but it is the first time in UK history that a bank’s security has been breached in this manner. In the wake of the Talk Talk security breach last year, it thus underscores the need for continued vigilance across the board – both from company and customer.
Lending Works and online security
At Lending Works, we take the issues of data protection, fraud and cybercrime very seriously. Certainly when it comes to protecting against fraudulent loan applications, we have state-of-the-art technologies and processes in place, while our team of expert credit underwriters offer perhaps the most important protection of all.
In terms of cybercrime, our systems, firewalls and other preventative technologies are market leading, and, under the supervision of our dedicated team of developers and specialists, we try to thwart all threats at source. However, we are always eager to avoid complacency, and are constantly looking at new ways to further enhance our layers of protection.
How to be secure online
While having faith in service providers such as ourselves to be secure is important, you may be pleased to know that cyber security is something you can control to some extent too, and there are a number of things which you can do to protect yourself online.
1. Keep computer security up to date: Updates often flash on your screen at the most inopportune moments, and interrupt you at busy times. But they really are important, as the cocktail of threats these days include everything from viruses to spyware to identity theft. Viruses in particular provide the simplest means for a fraudster to hack into your computer. Some will allow hackers to trawl information stored on your computer, while others can even allow them to track what you are doing, and which keys you press when you log into various accounts. It’s thus very important to install high-quality anti-virus software – and regularly update it too.
2. Watch out for phishing: Phishing is an increasingly common scam whereby fraudsters obtain information through fraudulent links, emails or websites, which usually look similar to legitimate companies. These generally tempt you into disclosing private account information or login details. You can avoid this by simply not opening any such messages, or avoiding clicking on the links. You should also open the legitimate website in a separate tab or browser when you receive an email that is allegedly from them, and establish from there whether you believe it to be suspicious or not. It is also advisable to contact the company directly if you are in doubt.
3. Be password smart: Making complex passwords can be a pain, and they can be easy to forget. But opting for something simple like ‘password’ or ‘123456’ is a hacker’s paradise, and gives them every chance of cracking it. Worse still, if you have the same password for multiple websites or accounts, the hacker could essentially have free reign. It is thus not only strongly advisable for you to set up complex passwords, with multiple types of alphanumeric characters (remember, forgotten password links are very efficient anyway if needed), but also to change your passwords regularly.
4. Be smart on your smartphone: It isn’t just on desktop that you’re at risk. In fact, with a growing amount of messaging, communications and even business being conducted on mobile phones, it is arguably even more important to be vigilant with such devices. Companies, via their app which you use, often track your location, store your card details or even look at your contacts without you being aware. If they incur a security breach, it could then leave you compromised. The key is thus to limit the amount of information you allow your phone to share with these third-party apps and/or companies. This can usually be adjusted in your settings.
5. Be careful with personal information and data: Once you’ve secured yourself with anti-virus software and anti-malware, the other piece of the puzzle is to simply be as cautious as possible when it comes to sharing your personal data and passwords. Hackers will often try and persuade you to willingly share such details with them over the phone. Avoid doing this as far as possible, even if the source appears credible. Similarly, when it comes to email, instant messaging or social media, do not pass over personal information. Even if it is to a friend or family, bear in mind that they may not have the same level of security on their machine or device as you do, which could leave you exposed.
Hopefully the above should help you in your quest to stay safe online. Unfortunately, the practices of fraud and/or cybercrime are becoming more sophisticated with each passing day. But so too are the technologies which combat them. So, as long as you keep your cards close to your chest, and do everything within your power to protect yourself, these dark arts can be kept at arm’s length – and beyond.
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