Is it safe to leave money in your online bingo account?
The short answer is that, yes, you are probably safe leaving money in your bingo account in the UK. Bingo in the UK, along with any online betting or gambling, is incredibly safe because of the strong laws on gambling and the strict rules the Gambling Commission have made to ensure that operators follow those laws.
While nothing in life is totally certain, the risk associated with playing bingo online is very small. This is because the UK’s Gambling Commission is one of the strongest in the world. To run a bingo site an operator will have had to go through a rigorous process to prove that they can do it safely and efficiently, and that they are suitable people to run it. Even when they have a licence they are monitored closed and the commission will take severe action if they find that an operator has been breaking rules.
Your levels of protection
One thing every bingo site, as well as any online casino or bookmaker, must do is keep player money separate from their business accounts. This means that the bank account you pay deposits into and take winnings from only ever contains players’ money. The operator can never use that account to pay the bills.
The Gambling Commission then requires the operator to make a declaration on how protected this money is. You will be able to find this in the terms and conditions on the bingo site (it will be a long, dry, document so try searching for ‘protection’ or ‘protected’).
Although it is in a separate account, the operator still considers the money to be part of their business. So if the worst happened, and they went bust, the account could be used to settle their debts.
If you are a customer with a balance, you would have to try to claim it back through whatever administration or insolvency processes were set up. Unfortunately players are likely to be a long way down the list when it comes to repaying a dissolved company’s debts, so you are likely to only get a fraction, if any, of your money back.
This is the next step up. As well as holding player cash in a separate account, it means the operator has something in place to repay players cash they are owed. This is usually some form of insurance policy to cover the account in the event the business fails.
Unfortunately, there is no requirement for the operator to state exactly what this policy covers, so there’s no way of knowing what you would get back in the event of the operator collapsing. You might get all your money back, but equally the insurance might only cover a proportion, or have an upper limit on individual payments.
High or total protection
This is the best level of protection there is. Not only is the money held in a separate account, it’s actually legally separate from the operator. These will usually be managed and operated by an independent body. In normal times they will just manage the payments in and out as part of ordinary business, ensuring the account follows the rules of holding only customer cash and that the bingo site isn’t taking money they shouldn’t.
However, in the event of a failure the account is held by a separate entity. This means the cash remains exactly where it is, in the account, and can’t be used to settle the operator’s debts. The account administrator can then simply refund customers their money.
Which protection level is best?
In practice, you will not need to worry too much about the level of protection offered by the site you use. The rules in place around online gambling mean that they have to be well-run businesses, one of the factors the Gambling Commission will consider as part of a licence is the business model. Failures are very rare and, for most people, their balance is small enough that it’s not worth worrying about the tiny risk that something might happen.
It’s also notable that some very reputable high street names choose the lower protection levels. It is a business decision based on how they run their business and feel they should manage their risk rather than a reflection on the integrity of an operator.
Increasing your protection
It is a sad fact of modern life that, in most cases, fraud happens because somebody was tricked into revealing something they shouldn’t. The biggest risk to money you have in your online bingo account is likely to be from someone managing to access your account, either by hacking into your account or somehow ticking you into revealing your details.
Fortunately, there are some very simple measures you can take to help keep your personal details personal and your bingo account safe.
Keep your devices safe
The easiest way someone can gain access your accounts, whether bingo or elsewhere, is by simply accessing your devices. There’s no point having strong passwords if they are kept on an unlocked phone or tablet that might get lost or stolen.
Likewise, if you play on a desktop computer you should take care to make sure it’s locked with a password when not in use. This means that your bingo account is not just safe from wrongdoers, but also safe from the prying eyes of curious children. All devices will have some form of security, and it’s sensible to use the strongest form it has, likely to be a fingerprint or face recognition. These are often backed up by a PIN, though, so make sure this is not easily guessed, either by using obvious numbers like 1234 or significant dates like your birthday.
Also take the time to think about how your passwords are stored on your device and make sure that’s secure too. That way if you do leave your device unattended for a moment no-one can quickly sneak in and get passwords.
Take care with personal information
Banks and other places use a range of personal information to verify your identity. Most people will be familiar with giving answers to questions like mother’s maiden names or the name of our first pet or favourite teacher. Many places have recognised these are not as secure as they seem and are moving to better alternatives, however, it pays to be careful when giving out information.
Be particularly careful in the chat rooms on bingo sites. While most people there will be exactly the same as you, honest and on the site because they love bingo, be careful if asked questions that might reveal something personal, even if the way it is being asked looks innocent and fun. No-one will be offended by you staying safe, or, if you are worried about upsetting someone, make up your answers rather than giving out personal details.
Use secure passwords
Worryingly a lot of people use passwords that are incredibly easy to guess. While most modern sites are good at preventing simple passwords being set, and detecting when a hacker is trying to break in by guessing, you cannot rely on this to keep your account safe. There are lots of guides on how to create memorable but secure passwords, such as taking three random, unconnected words, and replacing some letters with symbols or numbers.
You should also avoid using the same password on multiple sites. Data breaches happen every day and in some cases, details of usernames and passwords for specific sites have been published on hacker websites. If you have used the same username and password repeatedly it means hackers don’t even have to guess that, just guess which sites you have accounts on.
If you can, use a password manager. These will generate and remember unique and secure passwords every time you need one, then you only have to remember a single password. You can get password managers from any app store, and they are frequently built into operating systems on modern devices now.
Manage your balance
With the safety of online bingo sites combined with common-sense measures to protect your account there’s very little risk to your money. However, to be absolutely sure you should also actively manage your balance on the account. That way, if something does happen, you won’t lose much.
Doing this is simply a matter of only depositing what you expect to be using to play in the near future and withdrawing any winnings, so you don’t leave a large balance. If you aren’t planning on playing for a while, make sure your balance is zero so there’s nothing to lose at all.
Your money is safe
Bingo sites are required to follow incredibly strict rules, and they are closely monitored by the Gambling Commission. The biggest risk is from fraud, but you can do a lot to protect yourself from falling victim to that.
While it’s impossible to say your money is totally safe with an online bingo account, it’s impossible to say it is totally safe anywhere, whether that’s under your mattress or in a bank account. In practice, though, money in your online account is as safe as it could be anywhere.
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