In this week's podcast (Episode 83) I reveal a scam that has seen UK consumers lose over £125 million. The reason for its success is that it's amazingly simple yet incredibly convincing. I once almost became a victim of the scam myself before I became suspicious.
Technology is wonderful as it has made our lives more efficient and our finances easier to manage. However it has created an Achilles heel which most people overlook. Our email inbox has become the centre of our financial universe. Whether it's utility bills, bank statements or even electronic receipts our online profile is controlled via our email. If you forget your online banking password you can just get the bank to reset it via email.
This means that if a fraudster gains access to your email account they literally have the keys to your life. By the time you realise your inbox has been compromised they could have cloned your identity or even emptied your bank accounts. If you want to see just how bad things can get read this account of how an email hacker ruined a journalist's life and then tried to sell it back to her.
That's why you should protect your email password more zealously than you do almost anything else. The problem is compounded by the fact that many of us now use smartphones that download our emails. The trouble is a lot of people don't have a PIN lock on their phone. That means that if you lose your phone the finder/thief will have unprecedented access to your life and finances. It's amazing how many people don't realise this and just focus on the inconvenience of losing their phone if they misplace it. Trust me, it's far more inconvenient to have to try and rebuild your credit report or fight with your bank to get your life savings back than it is to survive without a mobile phone for a few days.
We need to wake up to the fact that in making our lives easier technology has also made life easier for fraudsters. So before you do anything else today make sure you protect yourself by:
- setting up a PIN lock on your phone
- setting up 2 step-verification on your email accounts (if you are not sure how to do this then just google it alongside the name of your email client i.e. gmail)