Stay informed and stay ahead of the online fraudsters

THE rise of internet banking has made parts of our lives a lot easier. Bills can be paid, deposits put down for holidays, transfers made between accounts — all with a swipe on your smartphone screen, writes Grainne McGuinness.

Stay informed and stay ahead of the online fraudsters

But the advances come at a price. The easier it is to move funds around, the easier it is for fraudsters to part victims from their money and online fraud is growing at an alarming rate.

Cambridge University lecturer Ross Anderson never banks online and he is the professor of security engineering at the university’s computer laboratory and an expert on cyber security. He refuses to do so because he believes the risk of fraud is too high and borne by the customers rather than the banks.

Giving up the convenience of online banking is not something most of us would be willing to do, but consumers need to be aware of the potential dangers of fraud and how to protect themselves.

Obviously you should be careful not to leave yourself logged in on a shared computer or in a cyber cafe or other public place.

But with more and more of us using our smartphones while out and about, another thing to be aware of is the dangers of insecure, public wi-fi. Using unsecured public wi-fi hotspots has been described as like leaving your car doors unlocked.

It doesn’t guarantee you’ll get robbed but it makes the thief’s job a lot easier.

Carrying out a financial transaction using these networks, be it online banking or even shopping, is risky as scammers can capture password or credit card details.

They can also glean information like your name and email address and combine the information to defraud you.

Scammers will also use a range of tricks to persuade people to either part with sensitive information or transfer money for what they believe is a good reason.

And with internet payments getting faster, even when sending money abroad, by the time the victim realises what’s happened the funds are long gone.

Never take the word of a complete stranger about anything to do with money. Common scams include pretending that you have won a prize or are due a refund, but that your bank account or credit card details are needed.

Or it may be suggested that your accounts have been hacked and the person contacting you is in fact trying to remedy the problem. Fraudsters frequently pretend to be from a bank or internet provider and purport to be trying to help you.

There is no legitimate reason to give or send financial information to someone who contacts you out of the blue.

Someone pressurising you or offering reasons why money has to be moved in a hurry should always raise a red flag.

Be it that you’ll miss out on something or that someone needs help urgently, fraudsters will do their best to hurry you into making a transfer.

Don’t be rushed on the promise of some big payout, if something sounds too good to be true it probably is. This advice also holds if buying something online.

Online car sales in particular are a massive area for fraud, with scammers targeting both buyers and sellers.

Do a lot of background checks before transferring funds to buy a car online, even before making a deposit.

It is very easy these days to set up a website that looks like it belongs to a legitimate business, so always verify a company or use one that has been recommended to you.

A scam that is frequently tried on people selling cars is for a sale to be agreed and the buyer then sends a cheque for far more than the agreed amount.

When they contact the seller they are given bank details and told to transfer the difference back, often being told to keep some extra for their trouble.

By the time the cheque bounces, the transfer is complete and the funds gone.

If you do become the victim of a scam, report it as soon as you realise. Contact your bank so they can tell you what action you need to take.

You should also report it to an Garda Síochána, either to your local station or the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation on 01-6663777.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission also ask that you contact them, at www.consumerhelp.ie, as they work to build awareness of scams. If you were scammed somewhere else in Europe, tell the European Consumer Centre Ireland at www.eccireland.ie.

DEAL OF THE WEEK

Planning a family trip to Dublin anytime soon?

The new €10 Leap Family Card offers genuinely great value for family day-trips in and around Dublin.

Brought out with the 1916 celebrations in mind, the card can be used by two adults and up to four children (U18) and is valid for 24 hours after it is first used.

It covers trips on Dublin Bus scheduled services, Bus Éireann services in the red zone around Dublin, DART services and Commuter Rail services in the Short Hop Zone and all Luas services.

It is being marketed for Easter but the card can be used up until the end of the year so well worth getting if you are planning a day in the capital later in the year.

They can be ordered online at www.leapcard.ie and are only available while stocks last.

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