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Tighten up online security

HALF of all bank fraud occurs online as account holders use unsafe payment methods or fall victim to scams, a new study reveals.

Some 500,000 French households – 2% of the population – lost money to fraudsters in 2010 (the latest figures available), according to the L’Observatoire national de la délinquance et des réponses pénales (ONDRP), with half the cases involving debit or credit card details on the internet.

Common scams include phishing – where fraudsters send an email pretending to be from a customer’s bank and then direct them to a fake website where they are asked to enter their bank details – and malware, spying software which can track websites and passwords.

However, consumer associations argue the responsibility also lies with online vendors who need to do more to make sites secure. Serge Molinari, from UFC Que

Choisir consumer association, said: “Many banks have online verification known as 3D secure when consumers make payments but different banks can have different systems.

“The problem is that vendors are not obliged to use them, and some choose not to put them in place in case the person changes their mind and decides not to buy the item.”

Fraudsters do not generally take very large amounts, hoping to fit in with a family’s normal spending habits and go unnoticed. One third of the amounts are under €100, and the average debit is less than €250.

While one in three victims say they can pinpoint how the fraud took place, almost 60% did not know how they were targeted, the study found.

Molinari advises never giving out bank details online if asked through emails or over the phone.

“Consumers should also protect their computers by making sure their anti-virus software is up to date,” he said, adding that it is not possible to know if your computer has been targeted by malware.

“You can limit the risk but you cannot get rid of it altogether,” he says. “You need to consult your bank statements regularly – that way, you’re aware if anything unusual has happened and you can react straight away.”

And, he said, four in five times banks completely reimburse victims: “French legislation protects consumers – you don’t need specific insurance, you should be reimbursed.”

If you spot a suspicious transaction on your bank statement you should contact your bank – by letter, although some have a secure area on their website.

Under article L. 132-4 of the Code monétaire et financier the card-holder is not held responsible for frauds where the card itself is not physically used – eg online and for distance selling.

The bank will ask you to fill in a dossier de contestation with details of the transaction and will make its own checks to find what has happened. The Interior Ministry advises that there is no need to lodge a report with police.

Money should be repaid within one month of the bank receiving a written complaint, and typically is repaid in around two weeks.

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