Stay safe online

Stay safe online this Christmas and beyond

09 December 2019

3 minute read

The season of mist and mellow fruitfulness is upon us. While Christmas is a time many of us like to lavish gifts on our nearest and dearest, it can also be a time when fraudsters prey on unsuspected shoppers and you need to stay alert.

More and more of us are doing our shopping online. Last year’s Black Friday saw shoppers spend almost £1.5bn on deals,1 around half of it online. Unfortunately, this can leave people vulnerable: the most recent figures from Action Fraud show over 15,000 shoppers were defrauded out of more than £11 million in the run up to Christmas.2

We can’t promise that Christmas, or subsequent January sales, won’t leave a dent in your wallet. However, there are ways to ensure your cash only ends up where it’s intended this festive season. Here are a few basics to remember when shopping online this year

Where possible, shop at home

Entering card details on a public or shared computer brings additional risks. Avoid free Wi-Fi, use a mobile broadband dongle or your 3G/4G connection instead, especially when accessing confidential information.

Shop securely

When you’re making a transaction, check for a security icon – either a locked padlock or ‘https’ – this is shown in your browser address bar. This doesn’t always mean the website is genuine, so continue to look out for any unusual requests for personal and banking information. Install anti-virus/anti-spyware software and firewalls on your PC and keep them up to date.

Verify payment instructions

Don’t complete requests to amend payment instructions until you’ve verified verbally that they’re genuine and check invoices and bills for any irregularities. If you receive an invoice or bank details via email to pay a bill, then you should first confirm with the beneficiary via telephone.

Never give away card details or security information for your computer over the phone

There are reports of fraudsters pretending to be different companies, ranging from HMRC to Amazon. Reputable organisations will never ask you to reveal personal or financial data via an unsolicited phone call, email or text message.

Two-factor authentication

Yes, this can make the process of paying for goods a little more time-consuming, but it’s a useful protection against fraud. Two-factor authentication means that individuals need both a debit card and a PIN or mobile/email-generated code. If the debit card is stolen, it can’t be used without the PIN or mobile or access to email. You can ask to have this switched on.3

Good password practice

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre recently found that more than 23 million people have 123456 as a password.4 While many sites will let you know if they consider your password poor quality, many people still use the same password for multiple sites. Create strong passwords for home Wi-Fi, devices and accounts, update them regularly and don’t allow your web browser to remember them.

Use Verified by Visa or MasterCard Secure Code

Online shoppers will often be given the option of these two security systems. Again, this can be a useful tool: you will need to register a password with your card company and then enter it when you make a transaction. This layers up your security.

Fraudsters shouldn’t be getting any presents from you this Christmas. Be vigilant and layer up your security and if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. As at any other time of the year, be wary of unsolicited calls, emails or online ads offering once-in-a-lifetime deals. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

If you think you’ve been the victim of a scam or fraud, please contact us immediately: UK +44 (0)800 376 7954 or +44 (0)207 574 3017 if dialling from abroad. The UK Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) Warning List, for example, details firms and individuals that it knows are operating without its authorisation. You can report the firm or scam by contacting the FCA Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768 or using its Reporting Form. The FCA’s ScamSmart website gives more details on preventing fraud.

Enjoy the festive season with peace of mind.

Things to consider

The value of investments can fall as well as rise. You may get back less than you originally invested.

What would you like to do next?

Read more articles

Learn more about the latest economic issues, gain market insights and discover some of the trends shaping the world today.

Explore wealth planning

Your aspirations, legacy and retirement plans – carefully understood and supported by your personal Wealth Planner.