By Daniel Hunter

With fraud against individuals estimated to cost around £6.1 billion a year in the UK, Barclays is urging customers to take precautions to avoid becoming a victim this Christmas.

Fraudsters can be very convincing and will use a variety of techniques to gain the confidence of their targeted victims. They gain the confidence of an individual by pretending to be from their bank, from other reputable organisations or may even claim to be from the police.

These techniques are often referred to as ‘social engineering’ and are used to coerce people into freely giving away security information, access to accounts or even to handing over their cash.

Thieves are no longer only after your wallet, jewellery, artwork or other precious belongings. They also want your information so they can steal money from individuals, but sometimes they don’t just stop at the money in someone’s account, they may also steal their identity. If a fraudster can obtain enough information from their victim, they can take out loans, make hire purchase agreements or enter into larger contracts in the individual’s name.

An estimated 100,000 individuals become a victim* of identity theft every year and the affects can be devastating. As well as the financial loss, it damages your credit file, preventing your ability to buy a house or car, and can also result in victims having to completely reorganise their financial accounts.

Fraudsters will often target particular groups, predominately the elderly, who are more likely to lose almost twice as much as others. Many victims lose their life savings and suffer ill-health as a result. Regular victims may have their personal details added to a "suckers" list, which is sold amongst fraudulent marketers and targets vulnerable people.

Jim Winters, Head of Fraud at Barclays said: “Fraudsters are becoming more brazen in their attempts to steal people’s money; we all need to become more security conscious. Criminals will call people directly and even turn up on their doorstep - pretending to be from their bank or from the police. Everybody needs to be aware of the scams and the steps they can take to prevent their information and their money being stolen. Remember never to give out personal or security details to callers and don’t be afraid to end a phone call and ring back on a phone number from our website or from the back of your card. If it was a genuine call, our staff won’t be offended.”

This Christmas, Barclays are giving consumers twelve top tips to ensure that this festive period brings them comfort and joy and will help to prevent them becoming a victim of fraud.

1. Protect your PIN — Never share your Personal Identification Number (PIN) with anyone, including the police or your bank.

2. Keep security information secret — Don't tell anyone your security details and never write them down. This includes your passwords, passcodes, PINs and card details.

3. Take care with cards — Always keep your cards in your possession and never let them out of your sight.

4. Keep contact details up—to—date — Ensure your bank has up-to-date mobile/telephone contact numbers for you so they can speak to you if they spot unusual or suspicious activity on your account and need to verify whether or not it may be fraudulent.

5. Keep documents safe — Keep all your important documents, such as your passport, driving license, birth/marriage certificate, home/car insurance, in a safe place - but not all together if possible and never in the car.

6. Stay secure online — Make sure your computer and your web-enabled phone have up-to-date anti-virus software and a firewall installed and that it is switched on. Access your internet banking or shopping sites by typing the address into your browser, never go to a website from a link in an email and then enter personal details.

7. Shopping online — Check the website is secure by ensuring that the security icon (locked padlock or unbroken key symbol) is showing in your browser window. Always log out after shopping and save the confirmation email as a record of your purchase. When shopping online register your cards with Verified by Visa or MasterCard SecureCode.

8. Use powerful passwords — Passwords should contain a mix of letters (upper and lower case) and numbers. Avoid obvious things like your name, birthday or phone number that others can guess

9. Be aware of scams — Generally, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

10. Manage your mail — If you move home, inform all the relevant organisations of your change in address. Consider using the Royal Mail re-direct service for at least thirteen months to make sure all post or annual documents are forwarded to your new address.

11. Check your credit file — Check your credit file regularly. This will help you spot any fraudulent activity that may have been conducted in your name.

12. Increased spending this Christmas — Keep a regular check on your statement and report any unusual transactions as soon as possible.

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