Although many people worry about transmitting credit card or bank details over the internet, it is actually a great deal safer than handing the card to a waiter or reading-out the details over the telephone.
The Hollywood concept of some 8 year-old ‘whiz kid’ hacking into your bank account in 10 seconds flat is basically nonsense and most computer frauds are quite conventional crimes where the use of the computer is incidental.
In the same way that many people leave their house key under the doormat or plant pot, PC users are sometimes careless enough to write passwords down near their desk or use the name of their dog—most so-called ‘hackers’ are simply good at guessing passwords based on the victim’s family or other interests.
An old survey discovered that ‘password’ was the most common password.
The technique known as ’phishing’ is a clever wheeze where the fraudster persuades the PC-user to voluntarily reveal their username and password.
This is done by sending authentic-looking emails purporting to originate from a bank, credit card company or on-line shopping site—they usually offer some pressing reason for accessing your account and helpfully provide a link for this purpose.
Trouble is, the link provided goes to a fraudulent web site where you will obligingly give them your username and password by attempting to log in.
This is possible because the visible link is simply a text description of the target web page—with Windows systems, the actual link is usually revealed as a highlighted ‘tooltip’ by just placing the cursor over the text version.
The rule here is to never log into an account from a link included in an unsolicited email—the major banks and responsible on-line traders never send emails requesting such a log-in.
Always log into bank, credit card and shopping accounts directly from the web browser using the known genuine web site address.
Once accessed, the genuine web site address may be saved for future use in your web browser ‘favourites’ or as a desktop ‘shortcut’.
Finally, do be careful with the use of ‘remember me’ boxes to retain your password if anybody else has access to your computer.