According to ONS (The Office for National Statistics) Among cyber crimes, bank and credit account frauds were more likely to involve the use of the internet in some way (56%) Protecting our personal data isn’t something that’s at the forefront of our minds all the time, and that’s OK. But, in a way, we should remember that collecting other people’s information can be at the forefront of the minds of those criminals out there. It’s really naff!

ONS also looked at police recorded crime offences in England and Wales: volumes and percentage change between year ending December 2014 and year ending December 2015 and it’s surprising to see that fraud offences are the 2nd highest recorded!

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The fact that there are people in the world willing to pinch from others really stinks, but hey, it’s the facts of life and therefore we will do our best to reduce the risk and prevent it from happening. So, here is my top 5 steps to reducing the risk to you and your family.

  1. Get clued up!

It sounds simple but it’s so true. Technology is on the increase and unfortunately the crim’s are always one step ahead. After all, we need to remember that someone out there is clever enough to invent the technology that we use today. As a result, there is always a mastermind that is able to take that technology to the next level or choose to crack it altogether. Those that go for the latter option are the ones to look out for. The risk they pose is significant, because, stealing small amounts from a large number of people who aren’t clued up, is much easier than stealing large amounts from less people who are. You get me?


I’m not suggesting by any stretch of the imagination that you need to take to the web with gusto, learn coding and become a hacking pro! What you should do is decide just how clued up you are and avoid phishing scams in your emails (this books teaches you how!). Also the Credit Industry Fraud Avoidance System (CIFAS) website offers a free quiz to discover your Fraud Risk Profile which is super easy to use and gives you an idea of just how clued or not clued you are! (Trust me it sounds more complicated than it is!) According to my quiz results I’m “well informed, not easily swayed and taking the right steps to protect myself from fraudsters and cyber-criminals.” (Aww shucks thanks guys!)


  1. Password Protect


According to Ofcom in 2013 (which is ages ago but I bet the numbers are totally worse now than then!) 55% of adult internet users in the UK admit to using the same password for most, if not all, websites. And, 26% say they use easy to remember passwords such as birthdays or names. That’s all well and good for you when it comes to ease, but is it all well and good for the crims? Yes sir it is! Ideally, using passwords that contain numbers, symbols and both upper and lower case letters can reduce your risk of being hacked. Also, using different passwords for different sites is a massive deterrent for those with nasty intentions.


You can also increase your security by updating your computer’s firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware programmes. Up to 80% of cyber threats can be removed by doing this so it’s worth an initial investment.


  1. Seek and Destroy


Looking at statements from our banks and credit cards is tedious and boring; we expect the professionals to get it right. And yes, they might, but what happens if there’s a transaction there that isn’t yours? All processed correctly through the card company or bank? Who’s mistake is that? No one’s! It’s potential fraud and the best way to spot it is to check your statements for anything remotely fishy! Additionally, destroying paperwork with personal details on is an absolute must! Grab yourself a shredder and have a good old clear out. You should be destroying anything with names, addresses or any other personal information.


  1. Report Anything Dodgy!


It seems straightforward enough, but some people shrug off the odd amount missing here and there, assuming they’ve made a transaction themselves and simply not remembering. All I can say to that is don’t! Check your accounts, direct debits and other statements with a fine tooth comb and report anything that seems off. Speak directly to your provider first, clarify the situation and report it if you’re not satisfied that these transactions can be confirmed. Action Fraud ActionFraud is the UK’s national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre, and their online service is brilliantly informative for any action you might need to take. You can also call them directly on 0300 123 20 40.


  1. Be Sensibly Social


Think carefully about what information is available about you online. According to a report carried out by the BBC in July last year, Identity fraud was up by 57% as thieves ‘hunt’ on social media. Scary stuff! Check your privacy settings on your social channels and, if you’re unsure how to do it, look at the sites Help section, grab a book or use tutorials on YouTube.


Start taking these basic steps today to reduce your risk. You should consider that it isn’t just the risk of losing money in the first place; the stress involved in cases of this nature is very high and can cause you to become ill. You can still be held liable for bills associated with fraud on your account even though you didn’t make the transactions yourself. There have been many cases where people have still had to pay, and resultant debt can be debilitating at the time as well as affecting long-term financials.


I’m not suggesting you start freaking out about this! Please don’t! Just being aware of the risk is an excellent start, along with taking the steps above to keep you that little bit more secure.

Your first step, buy a shredder!