Staying safe online

Using your computer, tablet or mobile phone to access your online life is quick and seamless. The ease of online access gives you the freedom to manage your accounts anywhere, anytime, which can make life a lot easier, but it also means that you need to be aware of potential risks online and take steps to ensure you minimise any risks. We’ve highlighted some of the key areas below.

Username and password

Passwords are your key online identifier and although we all moan about the sheer number of them we have to memorise, they do play a very important role in protecting your data and security.

Any threat to your online existence can be substantially reduced by maximising the strength of your password and by using computer protection software.

The most common online security measure is the classic username and password combination.

You will need these details to access your online bank account, shopping accounts such as Amazon or eBay and even social networks sites so it’s vital to make sure you have a strong password.

Tops tips for a new password:

  • Use a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols
  • Make it 8 characters or longer - this will make it harder for criminals to crack
  • Never use a password that's easily guessed eg. partners name, birthdays etc
  • Never use the word 'password' as the password
  • Don't recycle passwords eg. PW1, PW2, etc
  • Don't use the same password for different accounts
  • Never write your password down, send via email or disclose it to anyone

Following these top tips will help keep your online information secure however there are other clever ways online criminals can gain access to your data.

Computer viruses

Computer viruses are small software programs that are specifically designed to do your computer harm. They can often go unnoticed for long periods of time as they work in the background corrupting your hard drive, stealing data and even spreading to other computers.

There are three main types of virus:

  • Worm – this virus exploits security vulnerabilities and spreads itself automatically to other computers through networks
  • Trojan – a self-replicating type of malware (malicious software), a seemingly harmless programme that hides malicious functions such as unauthorised access and data theft
  • Spyware – can create unwanted pop up’s, steal your personal details, log your keystrokes and take screen shots of the sites you visit
  • Computer viruses are often spread by email attachments, internet downloads, USB/CD/DVD devices and via illicit websites.

Top tips to avoid viruses:

  • Don't open any files attached from an unknown, suspicious or untrustworthy source
  • Don't open any files attached to an email unless you know what it is, even if it appears to come from someone you know as viruses can automatically replicate
  • Delete junk/chain emails, don’t forward or reply to them
  • Don't download files from strangers or illegitimate websites
  • Update your anti-virus software regularly
  • Back up your computer files regularly on an external storage device

Loan fee fraud

Have you been asked to pay an upfront fee when applying for a personal loan? If so, it's possible that this could be a scam and you should proceed with caution. Recently both the FCA and Novuna Personal Finance have been made aware that scammers are now using this tactic to gain money from their victims for a loan that they will never receive. Loan fee fraud is on the rise - according to the FCA, there was a 26% increase in complaints from consumers who had fallen victim to loan fee fraud compared to 2021. So it's extremely important to stay vigilant.

The FCA have issued new guidance to help you avoid loan free fraud, sharing a simple 3-step checklist that could protect you from scams:

1. If you are cold called or emailed, it could be a scam.
2. If you’re asked to pay an upfront fee, it could be a scam.
3. If you’re asked to pay quickly or unusually, it could be a scam. 

We will never request any upfront payments from our customers at any stage and if you are asked by someone purporting to be from Novuna Personal Finance to make an advance payment, please do not do so and please do not provide any personal bank account or card details.

Top tips to spotting this scam

  • You may have made several loan applications online and then been contacted out of the blue by text, email or phone and offered a loan.
  • You may be asked to make an upfront payment into a bank account, or transfer money via an unusual method, e.g. Western Union or iTunes vouchers.
  • The scammers may claim that the fee is refundable and will be used as a deposit, administrative fee, insurance or because of bad credit history.
  • You may be put under pressure to pay the fee quickly.
  • Once the first payment has been made, the scammer might contact you again to ask for more payments before they can give you the loan.
  • Even though you make the payments, you never receive the loan.

More information on this type of scam can be found on the FCA website.

Cryptocurrency fraud is also on the rise

As the popularity of 'Crypto' increases, criminals have capitalised on this to help steal millions from UK consumers, either directly through large bank transfers or by taking out personal loans in an unsuspecting victim's name. Indeed, Action Fraud report they are seeing record levels of cryptocurrency fraud, quoting an average of over £20,500 lost per victim.

Known for their market volatility, criminals will promise high returns through investment or mining (the process of creating new 'coins'). Frequently mentioned on social media, fraudsters try to lure you in with claims of easy cash in order to obtain your money. Remember, scammers can use your personal information (either those you provided to them directly or copies of documents such as passports stolen from your devices) to help them apply for financial products fraudulently.

If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Learn more about how to protect yourself against financial crime.

How to protect yourself

  • Be wary of any such claims that promise high returns from cryptoassets.
  • Remain suspicious if you are contacted out the blue about any investment opportunity, either via a cold-call, an e-mail or message via social media.
  • No legitimate person or firm will pressure you, so don’t be rushed into making an investment.
  • Even genuine investment opportunities can be high risk, so it's always a good idea to take independent professional advice to help prevent you from falling victim.
  • Remember, a glossy website and glowing customer reviews does not mean they're genuine.
Cryptocurrency fraud

Take Five to stop fraud

Take Five is a national campaign that offers straight-forward and impartial advice to help everyone protect themselves from preventable financial fraud. This includes email deception and phone-based scams as well as online fraud – particularly where criminals impersonate trusted organisations.

Follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, and remember that criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police. The Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign encourages you to:

  • Stop: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
  • Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
  • Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud.

You can find out more about how to keep yourself safe on the official Take Five website.

Prevention is better than cure so make sure you keep your computer current with the latest updates and antivirus tools.

There is a wide range of antivirus software available to purchase on the high street and online. Free antivirus software and security packages are also available from some internet service providers, banks and the internet. If you do chose to download

For more information about staying safe online, visit:

New service 'Check a Website'

CIFAS have recently partnered with Get Safe Online on a new website with the aim of tackling fraud scams. The innovative new service is hosted on and invites users to check if a website is safe to use before accessing.

'Check a Website' uses an algorithm to provide a trust score based on more than 40 data sources as well as thousands of reports of malicious websites from law enforcement agencies, regulators and consumer brands every week.

Get Safe Online is a public/private sector partnership, supported by leading organisations in banking, retail, internet security and other sectors. They work closely with law enforcement agencies, MOD and other organisations in support of their outreach activity, internal awareness and customer online safety.