If you have ever used the Internet to make utility, phone, holiday, credit card or insurance payments, you will know how much time and effort you can save by doing these everyday jobs online.
But with any online payments, you need to take care. The last thing you want is online jobs that make life easier, spiralling into a cybercrime nightmare.
Online payments are normally arranged with a company or organisation you recognise and trust. Cybercriminals are intelligent and will use techniques to take advantage of your trust. It is possible to outwit them, though. Play the game and follow our golden rules to safe online payments.
THE GOLDEN RULES TO SUCCESS
Rule one – Do not talk about your details. Never respond to cold phone calls or emails asking for personal information. Do not give too much away on networking websites. Shred documents that contain personal information before throwing them away and never write down or share account details, personal identification numbers (PINs) or passwords.
Rule two: Do you sense fraud. Make sure you are on a genuine website. Fraudsters try their best to create pages that mimic the websites of genuine companies. Before you know it, you have typed in your details, clicked submit, and the cybercriminal now has your information to use as they please.
Rule three: Put up barriers. Set up passwords, PINs, firewalls, update your software and install anti-virus software like Kaspersky Multi-Device Security. This will make it more difficult for cybercriminals to get their hands on your information. Do this on all the gadgets you might use to make payments, including your computers, phones, and tablets. Never use your children’s names, favourite sports team or pets for passwords, and don’t use birthdays or anniversaries – they are easy to guess.
Rule four – Stay secure. Paying a bill online during a spare moment is a great use of time, but is your network secure? Public WiFi networks are often a haven for cybercriminals, who can easily delve into your details. It’s a good idea to wait until you are connected securely instead. The web address you use should also begin with https:// – s stands for secure.
Rule five: Check your tracks. Read all bank and card statements to check for strange transactions that you do not recognise. If you spot any – report it. Also, report card or document thefts as soon as possible. Monitor your post regularly and check your credit report to spot any spending that has nothing to do with you.
BAFFLED BY BITCOIN?
Credit cards, debits cards, cheques – they were all in use before we even began to make payments online. They were developed for face-to-face transactions, not virtual ones and are covered with numbers, names and details that make them vulnerable to cyber-scammers.
But things have started to change. You may have heard about people making payments online using a new virtual currency called Bitcoin. Bitcoins are virtual tokens that have value because enough people believe they do.
The digital currency operates with no central authority, unlike banks, and there are a limited number of them in circulation.
They allow you to make instant payments to anyone, anywhere in the world. Payments are fast, cost very little and can be made easily through the Internet without trusting a third party.
But the value of the currency is quite unstable. As a result of high-profile hacks and government comments on its future legal status, the currency has surged and crashed in the past 12 months, peaking at more than $1000 (£615) and dipping as low as $421.
Its reputation has also been tainted by its associated money laundering scandals and anonymous online drug purchases.
Public use of Bitcoin, illicit or otherwise, is currently very small. It’s still misunderstood, but Bitcoin allows one person to make a payment to another person securely, with no intermediary such as a bank, which is very innovative.
Using Bitcoin may or may not be right for you, but remember the golden rules to beating the cybercriminals at their own game no matter how you pay.