Every year, scammers get more sophisticated. But there are simple things you can do that go a long way to protect you from financial crime.
1. Always question unexpected messages
If someone legitimate contacts you, chances are it won't come as a total surprise. But whether or not you were expecting the message, make sure the person contacting you is actually from the company they say they're from – don't just take their word for it.
Never automatically assume an email, text or phone call is authentic. Be a sceptic. Just because someone knows your name and address, or even more intimate details like your mother's maiden name, it doesn't mean they're genuine.
Criminals can falsify phone numbers and pose convincingly as bank employees or other trusted officials. Often, they'll try to trick you into revealing security details by telling you you've been a victim of fraud.
If you have any doubt at all, get the caller's name and contact information and hang up. Then, contact the company directly, using an email or phone number that you know for sure is genuine, for example from the company's website.
Always look carefully at links and suspicious texts before clicking on anything. Don't open email attachments from sources you can't verify as safe and genuine. If in doubt, delete the email or SMS immediately.
2. Never disclose personal information
A bank or organisation will never ask you for your PIN or full password in an email, on the phone or in writing. Check the address of any website you're on. Be careful with the level of detail you share on social media sites and check your privacy settings.
Protect your HSBC SMS code like you would your password and PIN. Do not disclose it – or any HSBC Online Banking access codes – to anyone, or you could risk shouldering losses as a result of fraud.
Never download or install software you're not familiar with or allow a person making an unsolicited call to access your computer remotely.
3. Don't be pushed into making any important decisions
A bank or other trusted organisation will never force you to make an on-the-spot financial transaction or transfer, or rush you while you pause to think.
Slow down, so that you can consider your actions and your options. If you're uncomfortable in any way, don't be afraid to hang up.
4. Trust your instincts
They don't call it a gut feeling for nothing. If something feels wrong or seems too good to be true, question it. Criminals aim either to pressure you or lull you into a false sense of security while your defences are down.
Always make it a point to think carefully about the information you're giving and the decisions you're being asked to make. A good rule to stick to: don't send money or personal information to people you don't know.
5. Remember you're in control
Have the confidence to refuse unusual requests for personal or financial details, or if someone asks you to set up payments or make payments out of the ordinary.
It's easy to feel embarrassed when faced with unexpected or complex conversations. But if you don't feel in control of a discussion, it's fine to end it straight away. Again, get the caller's name, hang up and call the company directly on a number from a trusted source.
6. Make sure it's secure
If you shop online, always use secure websites. Make sure the web address (URL) starts with "https" or has a padlock symbol at the front.
7. Reduce risks of card fraud
First off, always check the amount you're paying has been entered correctly. Avoid swiping your card when making purchases or signing for purchases (when overseas). Opt for the more secure options of inserting or tapping your card, or even using a PIN.
8. Keep your data safe
Always keep your personal and account information safe. Don't share your PINs or passwords and don't write them down anywhere – if you forget them, you can always call your bank for assistance.
Use strong passwords consisting of letters, numbers and symbols, and change them regularly. Be careful about using regular words or names as they may be easy for scammers to guess.
Always update your computer, tablet and smartphone operating systems as soon as these become available and install anti-virus software.
9. Stay on top of things
Check your bank accounts and statements regularly, and keep an eye out for any unfamiliar transactions.
Get a copy of your credit report once a year and check it for any unusual activity. If a fraudster has used your name to take out a loan or credit card, it may not show on your regular statements.