How to Protect Your Online Personal Information

The following is a summary by Angela Money from Neighbourhood Watch of a great article by Kate Palmer for The Telegraph: The ultra-paranoiac’s guide: nine steps to become impervious to cyber attackers

Did you know that a ‘full profile’ of your data is worth around £300 to cyber criminals? But luckily there are some tricks which can make your entire web use ‘hacker-proof’

Personal information from your address and phone number, and full name and date of birth, to far more potentially compromising details including bank account and card numbers can be accessed from the internet and other sources.  All criminals need to do is draw the data together to a create a “package” ready for fraudulent use, which they can sell on – again and again.

Advice from Britain’s top cyber security experts unveil the hackers’ methods and ways in which you can beat them.

1) Clean up old ‘user accounts’

Online shops, old subscriptions and former telecoms and utilities providers could still be holding your personal information.  Medical records, for example, fetch high prices. Businesses should destroy your data after six years if it’s no longer needed.  If in doubt ask businesses to confirm, formally and in writing, that they have deleted all their records about you.

2) Keep a separate bank account for online purchases

It is worth opening a bank account solely for use when shopping online and setting up direct debits and deposit only as much as needs to be paid out.

3) Hack-proof your devices

Set your devices to automatically download software updates, which contain “fixes”. Free software is available for iPhones, Macs, PCs and Android phones.

Beware any unheard of programmes that pose as protective software but are actually malicious.

4) Make your credit card fraud-proof

By law, your credit card provider protects spending of more than £100, so if there is a problem you will get your money back but credit card details are also far more attractive to fraudsters, due to their high spending limits.

Fraudsters first use the card by carrying out a ‘test’ donation of 50p to a charity or a small transaction and if unnoticed, will use your card for larger amounts.

You could use a prepaid credit card and you still benefit from the same consumer protections of a credit card. Load only as much as you need to spend on the card and set a maximum limit, which will cap any unauthorised spending if it gets into the wrong hands.

5) Stick to spending habits like clockwork

Banks use complex systems to detect any transaction that looks unusual.

It will trigger warning lights if your card is suddenly used to buy four iPads and a luxury holiday.

But if you already are an “irregular” shopper, for example by using your credit card to suddenly buy lots of items, criminal activity is harder to spot.

6) Choose the best bank for dealing with fraud

If the worst happens and fraudsters steal your savings, you want your bank to act quickly and refund your losses.

Dispute resolution body, the Financial Ombudsman Service, publishes a list of banks that receive the most complaints from fraud victims. Barclays received more complaints than any other bank in the previous year, where the Ombudsman ruled in the customer’s favour in 56pc of 598 cases.

7) Use banking apps, not websites

Shun computers altogether and use banking apps on your smartphone or tablet instead for the highest level of protection.

8) Only bank using a dongle or card reader

If you do bank via a computer, only choose a bank that protects your online accounts using a secondary device such as a “dongle” or card reader. This means that even if a fraudster gains your security password, they will not be able to access your account.

Some banks and building societies, such as Nationwide, send a card reader as standard. But others, including TSB, do not automatically require you to use a piece of hardware to login, so request this from the bank.

9) Make your email watertight

The best-protected bank account is useless if you can request your passwords to be sent to an insecure email address.

Most providers now provide a “two-step” verification option, free of charge, which sends you a text every time you login on a new computer.

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