Protect Your PC

Malware, a shortened version of ‘malicious software’, is a computer virus that can be installed on your computer without you realising. It is designed to enable fraudsters to steal your personal or financial information or perform unauthorised actions on your computer.

Malware can sometimes get on your computer if you visit untrustworthy websites, click links in spam emails or download a pirated computer file.

A common type of malware is a called a ‘Trojan’. This can install a ‘keystroke logger’ on your computer which records the letters and numbers you type on your keyboard. Then, when you access an online bank account, the keystroke logger can record your login information.

Other Trojan malware can create a bogus pop-up webpage which appears in front of a genuine online banking login website, tricking you into entering your login details into a fraudulent website.

Other types of malware can alter webpages, meaning they are able to insert extra fields into an online banking website, tricking you into giving a fraudster personal information.

How to avoid this type of scam:

Be wary of

  • unsolicited emails that encourage you to click on links or open attachments. Emails containing Trojans often try to entice you to do so by pretending to include dramatic news or information.
  • websites that launch a program unexpectedly or that create a lot of activity on your internet connection as it downloads computer files.
  • downloading executable files (.exe) or zip files (.zip) from the internet or emails, especially from an unknown source.


  • make sure that you have anti-virus and browser security software installed with the latest updates, and regularly run scans of your computer.
  • installing a firewall and anti-spyware programme also helps protect you from malware.
  • check that you have the latest operating system and web browser security updates installed.
  • if you detect malware on your computer, try to remove it using anti-virus software, or speak to your computer or software supplier’s support centre.

Passwords are a common way to prove your identity on websites, email accounts, online and mobile banking, as well as for social media. Using strong passwords, and looking after them carefully, is an essential part of protecting yourself from fraud.

Many websites and apps use passwords in conjunction with your username. On sites with extra levels of security, such as your online banking service, you may also use an additional form of identification such as a PIN or memorable information.

Using a weak password means you could be at risk of a criminal accessing your account to commit fraud or another crime. This could include a fraudster getting into your bank account, stealing your personal information or sending emails in your name.

How to choose a password

Creating a strong password doesn’t need to be complicated. Try using one of these methods:

  • Choose three random words and join them all together. Add numbers, symbols and a combination of upper and lower case letters to make it more complex. This is particularly necessary for those accounts requiring more than just letters.
  • Select a line in a song or a phrase you know that wouldn’t be obvious to other people. For example “life is a mystery, everyone must stand alone”, and take the first character from each word to get ‘liam,emsa’. Then add numbers, symbols and a combination of upper and lower case letters to make it more complex.

Bear in mind that some punctuation marks may be difficult to enter on foreign keyboards.

When you set a password, never:

  • Use the word ‘password’, your username, your actual name or business name
  • Choose the names of family members or pets, or any birthdays.
  • Use numerical sequences, for example 12345678
  • Choose words that would be easy to work out with a little background knowledge about you, like your favourite football team or author.
  • Pick just a single, common word, as these can be easy guessed by hacking software.

How to look after your password

With lots of different passwords for lots of different websites and accounts, it’s really important that you look after them all carefully.

  • Never disclose your full passwords to anyone, whether it’s over the phone, on email or by text. No bank, or reputable firm, will ask you to do this.
  • If you think someone knows your password, or has gained access to your account, change it immediately.
  • Use a different password for each website or account. Just using a single password means a criminal only has to crack one to access everything.
  • Don’t enter your password when others can see what you are typing.
  • Don’t just recycle password – for example password2, password3. Create a new password each time.

If you must write down your passwords to remember them, ensure you encrypt them in a way that is only understandable to you and no one else. Online password vaults or safes are also available, but always do your research first and ensure the one you choose is secure and reputable.

If you suspect that your computer may have been infected with malware and you have used any online banking services, contact your bank immediately.