Sunday, 13 November 2016 14:54

How safe are our finances after the Tesco debacle?

How safe are our finances in the hands of financial firms? That is the question being asked by many as news filtered through this week that money had been stolen from accounts at Tesco Bank.

It affected 9,000 customers and, according to experts, was the first mass hacking of accounts at a western financial hub. A total of £2.5 million pounds was taken leaving both customers, and the bank itself, in disbelief and anger as to how and why something like this could happen in this day and age.

The bank claimed that personal data was not compromised.

The ‘unprecedented’ attack has seen a wealth of politicians and experts in cyber crime scurry to diffuse the situation.

Andrew Bailey, FCA chief executive commented: “(the watchdog) will visit a random sample of smaller "higher risk firms" to flush out practical problems in applying anti-money laundering rules, such as checking the identity of customers properly.”

He added: “automation could help firms cut the cost of complying with financial crime rules, and authorities should play a role in enabling such change to happen.” 

Whilst the FCA were quick to calm people and highlight changes that could be implemented to better protect people’s finances, the UK interior minister Amber Rudd was a little more realistic and confirmed her fears about the security of our finances. She said: “Public confidence in our institutions is shaken by these sorts of events. The recent example of Tesco Bank is a stark example of what we face.” 

Even though the large scale hacking of Tesco Bank was something out of customers’ control, it is still imperative that customers know the basics about how to keep their accounts safe. Fighting off phishing and other unsavoury scams should be in everyone’s interest. The more education and knowledge we have collectively will, surely, make a difference. 

Another key thing to note is that more and more people are using banking apps on their phones. Abuse of this banking facility is also being hit hard, and is fast becoming the most popular way to attack, so whatever security checks you do to your PC, please ensure you do the same with your phones. 

The first bit of advice to offer will, to many, seem very obvious – but in actual fact you’d be surprised at how many people are not very efficient when it comes to passwords.

Cyber hacking is rising all the time so why make it easy for fraudsters to get into your finances by giving them an easy password? 12345 is one of the most common passwords to have, and guess what? Fraudsters know this. Don’t do it. 

It is easy to understand why people would choose easy passwords. They are easy to remember – thus meaning people don’t have to go through the frustration of trying to remember different passwords for different accounts that they may have. But for the sake of your money and your personal data/identity, it really isn’t worth the risk. You need to try to stop the fraudsters at the first opportunity and a strong password is the first barrier and obstacle that you can put in place. 

Another bit of advice that you should heed is with reference to scam emails. This is another area of scam origin.

All you need to bear in mind is that the taxman, nor banks themselves, will ever email you asking for personal information or ask you to respond to the email with answers about your personal account. Should you receive an email like this, do not respond. A lot of people that have responded previously and been caught out had admitted they felt the need to do so because the email itself looked legitimate. That is what fraudsters are good at. Never respond to an email, even if the said email appears to be from a sender/email address that looks believable.

If you still believe the email looks genuine, all that is needed is a quick phonecall to the bank, or pop into your local branch and query it – never respond with personal details. 

Staying on a similar theme to that of emails, social media is also enhancing the prowess of fraudsters. People, like you, stating and posting pictures of where they live and work as well as naming and putting dates of birth online of their loved ones helps scammers to build up a picture and learn essential knowledge about you and those close to you – thus ultimately allowing them to get one step closer to deciphering passwords and other important information to gain entry into personal information. Be sensible, don’t do it.

Finally, make sure your computer and phone security is up to date. Anti virus software should always be installed.