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Digital safety: How to protect yourself online

And so benefit from the digital revolution

By Catherine McGrath  

This article was produced in association with Barclays

Why is digital safety so important?

Our lives have been transformed by digital technology. We now confidently shop, pay our bills and connect with others online, but this confidence has grown faster than our knowledge of how to do so safely.

This has created a “digital safety gap” which is being exploited by criminals. The latest crime figures show that fraud online and other cyber offences now make up half of all recorded crime in the UK. Being a victim of a fraud or scam can cause extreme distress, lead to financial difficulty, relationship breakdowns, and in some cases, suicide. As the Commissioner of the City of London Police says, it is “the human cost of fraud which ruins lives.” Unfortunately, we fear that the number of victims could grow. Barclays’ research shows that a quarter of people in the UK have experienced a cyber-fraud or scam in the past three years and a UK Finance paper indicates that only 1-3 per cent of scams are actually reported.

Barclays Digital Safety Campaign is a multi-million-pound drive to increase the public’s awareness of financial fraud and scam risks, helping them to stay safe in the digital age with information, tools and tips. The Campaign consists of TV and media advertising, the development of a Digital Safety hub, and a concerted effort to engage policymakers, including MPs and their constituents.

What are the core types of fraud and scams?

As fraud and scams have become increasingly common, we have sought to understand the methods used by criminals to defraud their victims. “Social engineering” tactics include “phishing,” “vishing,” “smishing” and “farming”—all of which are reliant on sending duplicitous communications via emails, phone calls or texts. Common types of fraud and scams include:

  • Investment fraud: A scammer convinces an investor to move their money to a fictitious fund offering significantly higher returns than they are currently receiving. Other instances of investment fraud involve carbon credits, land banks and wine scams.
  • Pension scams: These typically involve promises or pension investment opportunities or unsolicited offers to help people release cash from their pensions early.
  • Money mules: “Money mules” or “money transferring agents” are those who transfer stolen money between different counties. They are often recruited, sometimes unwittingly, by criminals to transfer illegally obtained money between different accounts.
  • Purchase scams: This occurs when the victim pays in advance for a good or a service that they never receive. These scams may involve the use of an online platform such as an auction website.
  • Safe account scam: This occurs when a scammer contacts the victim purporting to be from the victim’s bank. The scammer then convinces the victim to transfer money to a different account in order to safeguard it but the account is in fact controlled by the scammer.

How can people best protect themselves?

As fraud and scams become increasingly complex, we must be smarter about the ways in which we protect ourselves online. Barclays research shows that people’s experience of fraud and scams could be cut by 75 per cent if they implemented three simple actions: 1) Never giving out your PIN, 2) Never clicking on links in unsolicited emails, and 3) Never letting someone you don’t know have access to your computer. Our key message is that by taking simple precautions, people can keep their information and money safe. Other tips include:

  • Act with care when clicking on links or downloading attachments from unsolicited emails or texts. Forward suspect emails claiming to be from Barclays to and delete them.
  • If you receive a suspicious text message or email containing a telephone number, use our online phone number checker to confirm if it is genuinely from Barclays before responding. If you’ve had a suspicious call asking for specific details, hang up and check with us by calling through mobile banking, the number on the back of your card or statement, or by visiting a branch.
  • Always check a website is secure before you enter any account or card details. Look for “https” at the start of the web address and the padlock or unbroken key icon at the top of the page next to the address bar.
  • Keep your internet software up-to-date by running regular scans and systems updates. Help protect yourself with our free “Kaspersky” security software offer at

Barclays is engaged in a broad range of activities to protect our customers from the increasing risk of fraud and scams, including widely promoting the risks as well as the tools that people can employ to keep themselves safe online. Our new Digital Safety hub is a leading portal which houses lots of information on how to stay safe online. We are also hosting a number of policy round-tables later this year to explore what more we can all do to support this agenda.

How will digital evolve with “Open Banking”?

In January 2018, regulatory changes introduce “Open Banking” which will enable customers to share their bank account data with other organisations if they wish to. This means they will be able to benefit from new services and products—for example, being able to see multiple bank accounts and transactions in one place even if they are from different financial institutions. Customers will also be able to allow other organisations to give payment instructions from their account. We are positive about the innovative potential of Open Banking but it will be very important that customers understand what information they are choosing to share, how they share it and the best way to safeguard it.

We will be encouraging customers to use the most secure way of sharing their bank account data to ensure they are as protected as possible in this new environment.


With the support of Barclays, Prospect will be hosting a series of events at the Liberal Democrats, Conservatives, and Labour Party Conferences on online digital safety. Confirmed speakers include: Ben Wallace MP, Minister of State for Security; Bill Esterson MP,  Shadow International Trade minister; and Norman Lamb MP, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee.

If you would like to register your interest to attend our events or to find out more about our thought leadership programmes, please email Saskia Abdoh.



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