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Last Updated: Friday, 5 November, 2004, 15:13 GMT
Q&A: Safe online banking
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Internet banking is simple and convenient

A security loophole at internet bank Cahoot briefly allowed customers to access other people's accounts.

This latest security glitch has raised questions about the safety of internet banking. How can you protect yourself online?

Should I be worried about internet banking?

No. The security breach at Cahoot may cause alarm, but internet banking is here to stay and relatively safe.

You probably have more chance of being defrauded when you hand over your bank details or credit card details over the telephone or in a restaurant than you will by banking online.

Banking over the net has surged in popularity in recent years because it is so convenient.

An estimated 12 million Britons now use it as a way of managing their financial affairs: it is here to stay.

How can I keep my banking details secure?

There are several steps you can take to protect yourself.

  • Be wary of opening unsolicited e-mail attachments on your home PC. They can contain viruses, which could read sensitive information.
  • Make sure you have the basic level of security every PC user should have, including good anti-virus software, regularly run scanning programmes for spy ware, a personal firewall and a spam filter.
  • It is essential that you never keep passwords stored on your computer, or disclose them to anybody. Be extra careful if using internet cafes or any PC which is not your own and over which you have no control.
  • If you are accessing banking details from a computer that is used by other people, ensure you do not click on "save" password, as another user could gain access when they log on to the computer.
  • Check your bank statements and receipts carefully to ensure there are no fraudulent transactions.
  • Ensure you are up-to-date with the latest scam warnings and guidance on protecting your PC and yourself online.

Even when your financial services provider gets its website security wrong, taking these precautions could make it harder for fraudsters to clean out your bank account.

What should I do if I get an e-mail from my bank?

Log-in screen
'Don't be a mug': Protect your password

Ignore the deluge of e-mails that allegeldy come from your bank, credit card provider or online payment system, which ask you to click on a link to go online and "reconfirm" your personal details - including pin number, password and credit card security codes.

Your bank will never ask for your log in and password by e-mail.

If you receive an e-mail asking for such details or asking you to update your details, it is likely to be a "phishing" scam.

The scams are perpetrated by fraudsters who send random e-mails to internet users asking them to update their banking details for security reasons.

But the e-mails direct users to spoof websites - at times very convincing replicas of real banking websites - to harvest the details of the banking customer's password and pin.

If customers fall for the scam, the fraudsters can gain access to their bank accounts or use them to launder money.

Always access your internet bank by typing the bank's address into your web browser and never go to a website from a link in an e-mail and enter your personal details.

If in doubt, call the bank.

What happens if I've become a victim of internet fraud?

Being defrauded online is an invasion of privacy and a hassle to sort out.

However, most banks tend to be sympathetic to consumers who are affected.

If the fraud was not your fault and you took all reasonable precautions to avoid it, banks will generally reimburse users.

Cahoot hit by web security scare
05 Nov 04 |  Business
E-mail scam hits MBNA customers
25 Feb 04 |  Technology
NatWest targeted by e-mail scam
09 Dec 03 |  Business
Lloyds TSB e-mail scam alert
24 Sep 03 |  Business
How to avoid the phishing bug
23 Jan 04 |  Technology

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