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How To Improve Your Banking Security

Learn how to stay safe online

Update your browser

Modern browser software adds protection against fake websites.

The program you use to look at websites is called a web browser. Modern browsers warn you if you visit fake websites and it is harder for viruses to infect them.

If you have updated your computer regularly, it is likely that you are already running either Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 (on Windows PCs) or Safari 5 (on Macs).

It is a good idea that you install an up-to-date web browser. There are several to choose from and they are all free.

Keep your software up-to-date

It's harder for viruses to infect updated software.

The criminals who create viruses take advantage of software bugs to infect computers. Software companies fix bugs with free downloadable updates. It is a good idea that you install updates for your software as soon as they become available.

Be wary of fake emails about bogus updates. Use the update software that comes with your computer - don't click on links in emails.

As well as your computer software, other programs need updating. This includes your web browser and the applications you use. Most modern software will check for updates automatically. You may want to install them as they become available.

Secunia has a free online service that will check most common programs to see if there is an update available.

With Windows 10, you can check if your computer is up-to-date using the Update & Security link. This is located in the Windows Settings menu.

Don't share private information online

Double-check privacy settings on social networking sites.

What's your mother's maiden name? What's the name of the first school you went to? What was your favourite subject at school? What's your address? Birthday? Phone number?

All this information is useful to people who want to steal your identity or break into your online banking. You wouldn't give this information away to a stranger in the street but if you use social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter or MySpace, you could be over-sharing personal data.

You may want to think carefully about the information you put into your profiles on sites like this. It is also a good idea that you check the privacy settings on each site that you use to make sure you only share personal information with people you trust.

Please also remember that you must take all reasonable precautions to keep your details safe and prevent any unauthorised use of any cards and security details. If any information forms part of your security details, you should therefore make sure that you do not disclose it to anyone else – see terms and conditions that apply to your account(s) for more detail.

Safe Shopping

Avoid using online banking, sending e-mails, social networking or making purchases on public Wi-Fi or internet café / public library computers. Cyber-criminals can set up fake Wi-Fi hotspots that appear to be legitimate. Once you have logged on to the Wi-Fi, your activity can be tracked by the cyber-criminal.

Public computers often do not have adequate protection installed to prevent malware, key loggers and other malicious software that may record your log on details including your password. Avoid saving your personal information (such as usernames or account details) as it could be accessed by others in subsequent visits.

Look after your paper statements

Fraudsters use personal information from different sources to steal people's identities.

Viruses are one way to do it. But they also use paper documents of your accounts containing personal details, such as receipts and bank statements.

Fraudsters use many methods such as searching in dustbins to obtain these documents.

You should take simple precautions to keep your details safe and to dispose of these documents safely, such as shredding them before you bin them.

Understand how criminals use the internet

Criminals are in it for the money. There are many ways for them to make money online:

  • Steal your passwords and bank details with viruses, fake emails and fake websites
  • Ask you to provide security details
  • Send spam with bogus offers and products
  • Take over your computer and use it to attack other people's computers
  • Use viruses to display unwanted adverts on your PC

We take your online banking security and privacy very seriously. Protecting yourself and your money takes a bit of know-how and the right software.

Avoid online fraud and con tricks

If it's too good to be true, it probably is. When it comes to protecting yourself and your money on the internet be wary of ridiculous deals.

Criminals may contact you by email, through websites you use, via SMS or even by phone. It pays to be on your guard as they can be quite convincing.

Here are some warning signs:

  • Big promises: 'You have won the lottery'
  • Big threats: 'Your account has been hacked'
  • A false sense of urgency: 'Act now or it'll be too late'
  • Unnecessary secrecy: 'Don't tell anyone'
  • There is no reason for them to contact you. Did you even buy a lottery ticket?
  • 'Business opportunities' that involve holding or receiving money for strangers

If an attachment looks suspicious, don't open it. Don't install software unless it comes from a website you trust. If it doesn't feel right, take your time.

If you suspect that there is a problem with your online banking, you can always talk to us first.

Learn to spot fake websites

Criminals use fake websites to con people into giving away passwords and bank details. The technical word for this is 'phishing'.

They're good at making their websites look realistic. But you can often spot the fake ones:

  • dodgy-looking web addresses
  • poor design, typos or bad spelling
  • they ask you to do something unusual
  • a site doesn't display the padlock symbol in the address bar when you log on

If in doubt, check with us first. 

A starting point for protecting yourself online is to use software and up-to-date web browsers to block fake websites.

Find out more about phishing in our fraud guide.

Learn to spot fake emails

Criminals also use fake emails to try to steal passwords and bank details. This is another example of 'phishing'.

For example, they might send you an email that looks like it comes from us and it might contain a link to a website that looks like this one. When you try to log on, they can steal your password. They could also ask you to make a phone call or reply by email.

They are good at making their emails look realistic. But you can often spot the fake ones:

  • dodgy-looking email addresses
  • typos or bad spelling
  • they ask you to do something unusual

If in doubt, check with us first. Avoid clicking on links in emails.

Find out more about phishing in our fraud guide.

Protect your mobile phone

Your mobile phone may contain personal information. You may even use it for internet banking and online shopping.

For example, they might send you an email that looks like it comes from us and it might contain a link to a website that looks like this one. When you try to log on, they can steal your password. They could also ask you to make a phone call or reply by email.

You may want to think about:

  • Setting and using a security PIN code
  • Adjusting the phone settings so that it locks automatically if you don't use it for five or ten minutes
  • Not storing passwords or other sensitive information on your phone in a way that can be understood by someone else
  • Not storing your home phone number and address under ‘home’ in the contact list (you wouldn't want a thief to be able to know your address and be able to check if you're home)
  • Be wary of voicemail and text message scams
  • Clicking on links in text messages can be risky - be careful

If you lose your phone report it to your mobile phone provider immediately. Make a note of your phone's IMEI number (dial *#06# to get it). This will make it easier for your phone company to disable a stolen phone.

Tips to keep your devices safe

Follow these housekeeping tips to protect your devices from security threats:

  • install antivirus and anti-malware software
  • keep anti-malware and antivirus applications up-to-date
  • perform regular scans for both
  • don't click on email links or attachments
  • delete cookies regularly

There’s more advice about protecting your device on the National Cyber Security Centre.

Get safe online

HSBC is a founder sponsor of Get Safe Online, a joint initiative between government, police law enforcement and business. It gives free advice in plain English about internet safety.

Visit the links below for more advice on staying safe online.

It's easy to answer your query online. Visit our Help page to find out how.