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In today’s modern world, people use every resource to make their hectic lifestyles a little easier. The World Wide Web has made many menial tasks much simpler and quicker to perform than they might otherwise be done through conventional methods. An email to Australia, for example, can be delivered in seconds whereas the same letter sent by standard mail could take several days or even weeks to arrive at its destination. Similarly, with a few clicks of your mouse it’s possible to have your weekly groceries packed and delivered to your front door without you ever needing to leave the house.

However, for many World Wide Web users, online banking is a bone of contention as doubts about the security of online banking remain abundantly clear. Recent figures have revealed that 21 per cent of British internet users feared being a victim of a phishing scam or ID theft more than car theft, burglary and even mugging. However, online banking needn’t be an ordeal, so how do you protect yourself from fraudsters?

Firstly, the way you set up your login details for your online banking account is vital to protecting the integrity of your account. Many people tend to choose passwords that are easily memorable, such as a child’s or pet’s name, but these can be easily guessed. Instead, choose a username and password consisting of a mixture of letters and numbers, and avoid using the same password for other online accounts.

Secondly, check to make sure the site you are on is secure. To do this, check that your internet browser displays a small padlock icon in the bottom of your screen. This icon indicates that any information you enter and send through the internet will be encrypted, making it much harder for internet thieves to intercept and decipher the data.

Phishing has become something of a buzzword when it comes to internet fraud, with losses due to phishing scams reaching $23 million by the end of 2006. Phishing is a method used by fraudsters to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication – most commonly via email. Phishing emails typically take the form of an official document from a bank, credit card company, or other financial institution and claims that there has been a problem with the user’s account, or requests the user update their details. The email usually includes a link to follow which redirects the user to a dummy site, where users input sensitive information, including usernames, account numbers and passwords. These dummy sites resemble the authentic websites of the real institutions and can catch unsuspecting users. Remember, your bank will never send you an email asking you to update your details online, so if you receive an email like this, the best course of action is to use the ‘delete’ key!

Using a good antivirus software program can help provide extra protection from Trojans and other software designed to gather data from your computer. These programs are commonly disguised as common software applications and can log keystrokes made by the user, such as passwords and credit card numbers. There are also programs designed to eradicate these malicious components and preserve the integrity of your data, many of which are free to use.

Despite tales to the contrary, online banking can be quick, convenient and safe. Providing you take steps to protect your online current account, online banking needn’t be an ordeal. After all, you wouldn’t leave your wallet lying around – so why do the same with your bank account details?

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