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Combating cybercrime and online fraud: are your finances protected?

With instances of online fraud totalling 4.7 million in the year to September 2017, it is vital that you safeguard your business and personal finances. From phishing to identity fraud, we examine some of the most common types of cybercrime, and consider ways in which you can minimise the risk.

Types of cybercrime and online fraud

Every year, millions of businesses and individuals are caught out by a range of different types of online fraud, some of which are outlined below.

Phishing

Phishing refers to the practice whereby a criminal poses as a recognisable company or brand (including major banks, HMRC and telecommunication companies), and contacts an individual or a business, requesting them to provide personal information or payments, or to allow them remote access to their computer.

Victims are often contacted via telephone, email or text message, and are urged to supply sensitive data, including banking and credit card information and account passwords. Criminals then take advantage of this, or take the opportunity to install malicious software onto the victim’s computer.

Action points:

  • Exercise caution when it comes to responding to phone calls, text messages or emails asking you to make a payment, or log in to an online account. The government, banking institutions and large organisations will never email you to request access to your account, or to request that you send them personal information
  • Be wary of clicking on links within emails – if in doubt, visit the company’s official website separately and log in to your account from there.

Mandate fraud

Mandate fraud involves a criminal posing as a banking organisation or other financial body and requesting their victim to change a direct debit, standing order or bank transfer mandate.

Action points:

  • If you notice unusual activity on your account, inform your bank immediately
  • Ensure that bills and other financial documents are stored safely and in a secure manner to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands.

Identity fraud

Identity fraud occurs when criminals garner sufficient personal data on an individual to assume their identity. Most then open bank accounts, order goods, obtain credit cards and take out contracts in the victim’s name.

Action points:

  • Be wary of emails claiming to be from your bank or finance provider: never give out your account information or your personal details. Your bank will never ask you for your PIN number or account password
  • Check any financial statements carefully – suspicious activity should be reported to your bank.

Investment fraud and land banking scams

This type of fraud involves a criminal offering their victim the opportunity to invest in a range of schemes or products which typically tend to be of little value, or which do not actually exist. The criminal’s aim is to make you ‘invest’ as much as possible, and subsequently disappear with your funds.

Action points:

  • Never give out your financial or personal information
  • Ensure that you carry out thorough research into your potential options before you decide to invest – avoid taking up offers of investments on the spur of the moment. If you are unsure about an offer, check with the Financial Conduct Authority whether the seller’s activities are legitimate.

Ensuring that you have the basics covered is the first step to helping to protect your business and personal finances. As a business owner, it is also advisable to train your employees on the best ways to deal with cybercrime and matters of fraud. Instances of online crime or suspicious communications should be reported to www.actionfraud.police.uk.

Taking appropriate action now will help to safeguard your business and personal finances against the risk of fraud.