Staying safe online

Using your computer, tablet or mobile phone to access your online life is quick and seamless. The ease of online access gives you the freedom to manage your accounts anywhere, anytime, which can make life a lot easier, but it also means that you need to be aware of potential risks online and take steps to ensure you minimise any risks. We’ve highlighted some of the key areas below.

 


Username and Password

Passwords are your key online identifier and although we all moan about the sheer number of them we have to memorise, they do play a very important role in protecting your data and security. Any threat to your online existence can be substantially reduced by maximising the strength of your password and by using computer protection software.

The most common online security measure is the classic username and password combination. You will need these details to access your online bank account, shopping accounts such as Amazon or eBay and even social networks sites so it’s vital to make sure you have a strong password.

Tops tips when creating a new password:

  • Create a complex password by using upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols
  • Make sure your password is long enough, 8 characters is usually the minimum but the longer the password the harder it is for criminals to break
  • Never use a password which could be easily guessed for example, partners name, pets’ name, birthdays, alphabetical or numerical sequences (abcd/1234) and never use the word password as the password!
  • Don't recycle passwords, for example Password1, Password2
  • Don't use the same password for different accounts
  • Never write your password down, send it by email or disclose it to anyone

Following these top tips will help keep your online information safe and secure however there are other clever ways online criminals can gain access to your data.


Computer Viruses

Computer viruses are small software programs that are specifically designed to do your computer harm. They can often go unnoticed for long periods of time as they work in the background corrupting your hard drive, stealing data and even spreading to other computers.

There are three main types of virus:

  • Worm – this virus exploits security vulnerabilities and spreads itself automatically to other computers through networks
  • Trojan – a self-replicating type of malware (malicious software), a seemingly harmless programme that hides malicious functions such as unauthorised access and data theft
  • Spyware – can create unwanted pop up’s, steal your personal details, log your keystrokes and take screen shots of the sites you visit
  • Computer viruses are often spread by email attachments, internet downloads, USB/CD/DVD devices and via illicit websites.

Top tips to avoid viruses:

  • Don't open any files attached from an unknown, suspicious or untrustworthy source
  • Don't open any files attached to an email unless you know what it is, even if it appears to come from someone you know as viruses can automatically replicate
  • Delete junk/chain emails, don’t forward or reply to them
  • Don't download files from strangers or illegitimate websites
  • Update your anti-virus software regularly
  • Back up your computer files regularly on an external storage device

Loan fee fraud

Have you been asked to pay an upfront fee when applying for a personal loan? If so, it's possible that this could be a scam and you should proceed with caution. Recently both the FCA and Hitachi Personal Finance have been made aware that scammers are now using this tactic to gain money from their victims for a loan that they will never receive.

We will never request any upfront payments from our customers at any stage and if you are asked by someone purporting to be from Hitachi Personal Finance to make an advance payment, please DO NOT do so and please do not provide any personal bank account or card details.

Top tips to spotting this scam

  • You may have made several loan applications online and then been contacted out of the blue by text, email or phone and offered a loan.
  • You may be asked to make an upfront payment into a bank account, or transfer money via an unusual method, e.g. Western Union or iTunes vouchers.
  • The scammers may claim that the fee is refundable and will be used as a deposit, administrative fee, insurance or because of bad credit history.
  • You may be put under pressure to pay the fee quickly.
  • Once the first payment has been made, the scammer might contact you again to ask for more payments before they can give you the loan. 
  • Even though you make the payments, you never receive the loan.

More information on this type of scam can be found on the FCA website.


Take Five to stop fraud

Take Five is a national campaign that offers straight-forward and impartial advice to help everyone protect themselves from preventable financial fraud. This includes email deception and phone-based scams as well as online fraud – particularly where criminals impersonate trusted organisations. 

Follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, and remember that criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police. The Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign encourages you to:

  • Stop: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
  • Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
  • Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud.

You can find out more about how to keep yourself safe on the official Take Five website.


Prevention is better than cure so make sure you keep your computer current with the latest updates and antivirus tools.

There is a wide range of antivirus software available to purchase on the high street and online. Free antivirus software and security packages are also available from some internet service providers, banks and the internet. If you do chose to download

For more information about staying safe online: https://www.getsafeonline.org/protecting-yourself