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How to keep your money safe from scammers

There are millions of scams attempted every year, says Ruth Jackson-Kirby. Shield your cash with these simple but crucial tips.

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There are millions of scamsattempted every year. Shield your cash with these simple but crucial tips.

The number of scams aimed at separating you from your money continues to rise relentlessly. "With 3.9 million cases reported last year, you are much more likely to experience fraud than a violent crime," says Kenza Bryan in The Times.So, it's time to brush up your security skills in order to stop yourself falling victim to a con.

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Stop scammers from accessing your accounts by strengthening your passwords. We all have to remember several different complicated codes and passwords. "To make them easier to remember, opt for a theme rather than just a memorable bit of information about you," says Bryan. You could take the first line of your favourite novel and use the first letter of each word. Then swap some letters for numbers and symbols. So, fans of 1984 could opt for Iw@bcd1A.

Another way to make your accounts more secure is to lie. Answer security questions truthfully and you could be using information that is easy to find online, such as your mother's maiden name or what you call your pet. "Pick a random but memorable word, keep it secret and use it for every answer," says Bryan.

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Beware of public Wi-Fi

Try to avoid visiting secure websites such as online shopping web pages while you are on public Wi-Fi. "Fraudsters are able to compromise public Wi-Fi easily, so it's worth eating into your own data and staying safe," Ashley Hart, the head of fraud at TSB, told the Daily Express. Before making an online payment double-check everything. "Fraudsters thrive on stressful or rushed situations, because we're less likely to think things through before making a payment or surrendering our information," says Hart. "Always give yourself enough time to make a good decision."

Add an extra layer of security to your online accounts with two-step authentication, but don't opt to receive codes by text message. "They can be intercepted by fraudsters who convince your phone company to give them control of your number," says Bryan.

Instead, ask your bank if you can receive codes via your mobile banking app, or by email or telephone. Finally, check your bank statements. Look for payments you don't recognise and Google the description to find out what company it is. If you spot anything unusual, report it to your bank straight away.

Don't settle for lousy cash Isas

Interest rates may be at historic lows, but that doesn't mean you have to settle for some of the absolutely pitiful rates some banks are paying. Research by the Daily Mail has found that Halifax's Instant Isa Saver and Santander's Easy Isa accounts both pay just 0.2% interest.

The 20 worst cash Isas pay between 0.15% and 0.4% interest. That's less than £5 in interest on £1,000. The good news is that there is no reason to accept such pitiful interest rates. "No one should accept earning less than the price of a cup of tea over a year on £1,000 on their hard-earned savings," says Anna Bowes from Savings Champion.

"While things still look bleak for the savings market, there are providers offering better rates of interest for those who shop around."

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The best rate for an easy-access Isa is offered by Yorkshire Building Society at 1.35%. Someone who moved £20,000 from the worst-paying Isa to the best would increase their return by £240 a year. Just be aware that the Yorkshire account only allows withdrawals on one day per year.

If you want unlimited withdrawals then Cynergy Bank's cash Isa pays 1.31%: £262 a year on £20,000.

Pocket money... have you checked the Marriage Allowance?

New figures from the Office for National Statistics have revealed that we've been getting wealthier in recent years, but at the same time we have also taken on more debt, says Marianna Hunt in The Daily Telegraph. Between 2012 and 2014 the households with the median amount of wealth owed £4,150, but that has "risen by almost 40% to £5,800 today."

Middle-income earners are getting into debt more than any other wealth level. This could be because they are juggling lots of balls. "There's every chance each month they have a mortgage plus a credit card, loan or overdraft to address," Sarah Coles from Hargreaves Lansdown told the paper.

Married couples are being urged to check if they are eligible for a tax rebate. The Marriage Allowance lets a low-earning spouse transfer £1,250 of their Personal Allowance to their partner. The transfer can save up to £250 a year in income tax.But "eligible couples may need to act sooner rather than later if they want to backdate their claim for the past four years", says Jess Sheldon in theDaily Express.

The allowance was introduced in 2015, so if you have never claimed you could still get the whole lot. But be aware that from April you won't be able to claim for the 2015/2016 tax year any more.

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Savers are getting locked into low-interest fixedbonds against their will, saysSam Barker in The Sunday Telegraph. When a savings bond matures some providers are setting "narrow time periods" for customers to contact them to say how they want their money and interest to be paid to them. Aldermore, for example, gives customers just three weeks to inform them what to do with a maturing bond otherwise it automatically renews. "In the worst case this can mean a five-year deal becoming a ten-year one."

"Cash isn't always king when negotiating a deal to buy a new car," car buyers' magazine What Car told This is Money.co.uk. A review of manufacturers' deals found that a motorist could save an average of 11.65%, or £4,201, if the driver took out a financing deal. Discounts for cash buyers were just 8% on average, or £2,881. This reflects an attempt "to corral [people] into becoming repeat customers", says This is Money's Rob Hull. With a personal contract purchase (PCP), essentially a long-term rental with theoption to buy the car eventually, a driver is far more likely to return and spend more money, while dealerships also earn more from servicing and maintenance. The best PCP deal What Car found was on a Nissan: a 14% saving.

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