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Passing on password

We’re never going to abandon online shopping or banking but are we becoming more cautious about it?

There’s nothing like a good scare story to make us reassess our habits. Well, that’s the theory. In fact, HMRC’s lost disks may have made us slightly twitchy — but not enough to make any drastic changes.

Curious as to what impact this debacle has had on people’s lives, I asked members of AQR’s networker group. It was a bit like light the blue touch paper and retire. Responses came flooding in, so thank you one and all. I thought the most interesting thread running through them all was that online purchasing — and banking — is so much part of our lives that we’d never consider abandoning it.

Caroline Midmore spoke for a lot of you when she said: “I still shop online and will continue to do so because, compared to other risks we face every day, identity fraud seems to me to be massively exaggerated. I hope I’m not proved wrong.”

We have a touching faith in our banks. Indeed the majority of people who replied owned up that it was actually their bank who’d noticed suspicious activity and contacted them. Adrian Langford reckons “it would be commercial suicide for the major banks to have the slightest chink in their online security armour.”

That may be so, but as cybercrime grows more common there are signs that banks are not quite as helpful as they once were. There have been news and feature items recently about credit card details hijacked following purchases from major shopping websites. High street banks, meanwhile, require cast-iron proof that no-one else in the family knows password details before making any refunds. Yes, of course that’s sensible, but sometimes it’s unprovable.

Ah yes, passwords. Now that’s a tough one. The overall trend seems to be to change codes more often — but without using random word/number mixes so that we can remember them.

For those who want an additional measure of security, members proposed PayPal or the use of a database (one recommended RoboForm, another SplashID) for password storage, so that they can be really complicated and different for each application or website used.

There was conflicting advice, too. One member advised closing unused accounts and destroying spare cards. Annie Woodhouse, meanwhile, said: “always have a second card so that if one is stopped because of fraud, you can still spend.”

The first I knew of a problem was when I received a card from a major sports retailer, followed by a £5,000 bill. It took ages to sort but now, like many other members, I shred to within an inch of my life. Must just remember to start a wormery!

 

Louella Miles
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