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An expert guide to keep your data safe and secure

By Anastasia Stefanidou, Associate Manager - Branded Content and Channels, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

Did you know that you’re far more likely to be a victim of fraud than to be mugged? Unlike being mugged, cyber criminals use clever tactics to steal information, and you might not know about it has been stolen until months later. 

Fraudsters are sophisticated, sneaky and very patient. They’ll pick details from different places and piece together the jigsaw of your identity. Once they have enough details, they can use this for their own financial gain – usually by applying for credit in your name.

We met with John Webb, Consumer Affairs Executive, Experian, to talk about how a fraudster might steal your identity or details and how you can protect yourself against them. 

What are the most common ways fraudsters can steal your identity?

  • When you allow unsecure networks.

    Many homes and offices have internet connections devoid of any password protection.

    What can you do? Make sure your home or office internet connections are secure. Don’t use default passwords the service provider provides. Don’t forget to make sure that your router passwords are secure, which are usually different from the internet passwords they give you. Check with your provider and ask for some help if you’re not sure. Always make sure there’s a password on your router and change it if you have a default password. Make sure the password is not easy to guess.

  • When you join unsecured public Wi-Fi.

    Fraudsters will patiently wait for unsuspecting people to connect to unsecured public Wi-Fi. As soon as you’re connected, it’s very easy for someone to access the information being transferred.

    What can you do? Think twice before logging on to unsecured WIFI and accessing your bank details. If you’re on an unsecured network, avoid logging in to anything secure or personal. Never sign in to personal accounts on free public Wi-Fi, especially internet banking.

  • Through harvesting personal information from your social media.

    In the quest to increase followers and likes, people are very generous with posting personal information on social media. So if I’m a fraudster looking for some of your personal details, it won’t take long for me to fish around and find it.

    What can you do? Think twice before posting your pet’s names or when you’re on holiday or other personal details. You should be aware of other popular methods of social media fraud.

  • When you use simple passwords.

    Having easy-to-guess passwords, or no passwords, is extremely risky. If you’re using ‘Password123’ as your line of defence between you and fraudsters, it’s a very weak line.

    What can you do? Create a simple method for having a complicated password for each individual account you have. Younger generations typically have the same simple password for all accounts (to make life easy) – but this is very risky. Find more tips on how to protect your business from hackers in our recent password management blog.

  • When you don’t have anti-virus software – or the software’s outdated.

    Many people don’t have ant-virus software on the computer systems. Some even fail to remember that one of their most commonly used computers are their phones.

    What can you do? You should always invest in up-to-date anti-virus software. Some people do this for their laptop or desktop computer but often forget to add it to their mobile devices. Given the amount of information used and accessed on your mobile, it’s always a good idea. Have a look for anti-virus software online, for example, McAfee. You can get packages to cover PC’s and mobile devices. Remember to scan devices once you start the subscription. 

  • When you fall for a phishing scam.

    Fraudsters fish for little pieces of your identity jigsaw, and without knowing it, you might help them. A caller might claim to be from your bank or service provider asking for a couple of details. Perhaps you receive an email from your bank asking you to log in. This is a sure-fire way to provide fraudsters with information to access accounts and steal your data or money.

    What can you do? The rule of thumb is to never trust anything you receive by email – particularly if it has anything to do with money or credit cards. Never give out information to anyone that calls or emails you asking for details. If you receive emails with links or files, never click on them or download anything suspicious. 

How would I know if my details have been stolen?

There are lots of ways fraudsters can access your data, so it’s a good idea to always be aware and check for warning signs of identity fraud:

  • Check your credit report. Look for new searches or new accounts.
  • Look out for surprising mail– for example, statements or new accounts.
  • Check your email regularly. Look out for password resets or subscriptions.
  • Check statements, making sure you always look for any unknown transactions.

Are there any tips for staying secure?

Here are my top tips for making sure you keep your data as safe as possible:

  1. Always be aware. Prevention is best, so always keep security in mind.
  2. Use secure passwords on home or office networks and routers.
  3. Never access or send personal information on unsecured public networks.
  4. Be careful about what you post on social media – don’t reveal personal details.
  5. Keep unique and secure passwords to all your accounts.
  6. Invest in some good anti-virus software (it’s not too expensive).
  7. Be aware of phishing scams by phone and email.

If you’ve set up a business and want to know more about protecting your customer’s data, then take a look through our guide and service options.

October 2019 is Cybersecurity Awareness Month in the USA and Cybersecurity Month in the EU. If you’d like to learn more, check out the third part of our “A-E” of digital disruption learning series on cybersecurity