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Crime and crowds: fending off online fraudsters


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Crime has a tendency to follow crowds. On holiday, you’ll notice that many of the tourist areas have a reputation for pickpockets; and as more and more people have moved their shopping, banking and social activity into the online arena, criminals haven’t taken too long to catch on there too.

Indeed, clearly pickpocketing isn’t a concern on the World Wide Web: but having your personal data fall into the wrong hands is a real problem and is one that needs to be tackled head on.

Cyberspace - and the secrecy it affords - is the perfect hiding place for online scammers, hackers, and identity thieves who can remotely tap into computer hard-drives, online bank accounts, social networking sites and more, but you can reduce the likelihood of becoming another cyber victim by carrying out a few safety measures.

First thing’s first, password protection should be a number one priority. As many as two million UK internet users may use the same password for all their various online accounts – something that’s easily avoided and is probably down to laziness more than anything else. Furthermore, never opt for easy-to-guess passwords, such as ‘password’, ‘1234’, your date of birth or your first name. It’s always best to use non-dictionary phrases that combine letters, numbers and capitalisation: FoxtrotTango24, for example, isn’t likely to top any would-be scammer’s guess-list.

From a more technical standpoint, cookie control is a good way of limiting the amount of information stored on your computer by external websites. Cookies can be harmless and extremely useful, such as passwords and user IDs for your eBay and Amazon account: it saves you having to repeatedly entering your details. Some cookies, on the other hand, can be used for ‘data-mining’ purposes, and they track your actions and activity on a website. In the wrong hands, such cookies can divulge a rather lot of detailed information about you so it may be an idea to disable cookies on any machine you use for anything confidential.

Indeed, taking a great deal of caution to prevent data falling into the wrong hands is a great start, but what if sensitive, confidential information has already found its way to one of the many internet fraudsters?

The first thing you should do is carry out a free credit check which will help discover if anything is amiss, such as loans or credit cards taken out in your name. A little peace of mind for not a lot of effort, and by adopting a disciplined password protection and cookie control surfing policy at home, you will be most of the way towards living in a safe browsing environment.


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