10 Tips to Using the Internet Safely
Our guide containing 10 key tips to using the internet safely.
The use of the internet by millions of people for work, shopping, research, social networking, forums and chat rooms has given criminals and fraudsters a free pass into the private world of our personal information. You need to protect yourself against these fraudsters. Whilst up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware products are useful, common sense is also needed to implement personal protection when using the internet. Below are 10 practical but often overlooked, things that you can do:
1. Check The Website Address
When using any website to purchase a product or service you must double check the website’s address. This is because fraudsters may be able to intercept the website if you have linked to it from another website. If you are uncertain as to whether the website is genuine, retype the website’s address in the address bar before continuing with your transaction. There should be no numbers in the address line at all.
2. Type The Website Address
We recommend that you always type in the website address yourself rather than clicking through to that website on a link. The reason for this is to prevent being diverted or intercepted by a fraudster who has created a credible looking copy of the legitimate site that you are seeking.
3. Don’t Be Duped!
Fraudsters will often try to trick you into purchasing from them by using a credible looking copy of the actual website you sought.
Also, many fraudsters may email you pretending to be from your bank and requesting your details or asking you to confirm your details. This is called phishing. No bank details should be given...EVER. Regardless of which bank you are with, a bank will never contact you to request any personal details via email due to the risk of the email being intercepted by a fraudster and so will only contact you in writing. Should you receive a telephone call from an individual representing your bank, decline anything they offer and do not confirm any of your details. Hang up, then call your bank and ask to speak the person who just called to see whether they were genuine. It may seem like a lot of trouble, but could save heartache in the future.
4. Check Before You Sign Up
Make sure that you have done your research before you commit yourself to anything. Whilst a number of websites provide free newsletters and free subscriptions to their sites, by accepting, you are disclosing your personal information and should proceed with caution. Undertake a little research on the website first, by checking online forums for any complaints, for example.
5. Read The Small Print
Always read the small print. Whether you are reading an email on your favourite website or have received a letter through the post, be vigilant. You must always read the small print because this is where the terms will be written. These terms may be legally binding on you so you must make sure you have taken the time to read and understand them so that you can be sure of your position should any dispute arise.
6. Forums and Bulletin Boards
Whilst internet forums and bulletin boards can be a great place for researching products and services and complaints etc, be aware that anyone can write these comments and a fraudster may use them to promote a website with the intention of intercepting your personal details should you register with it or make a transaction. Therefore any information presented on these sites should not be automatically relied upon. For example, a fraudster could post a series of blogs or messages under several aliases to promote interest in their website.
7. Your Security
When you make a purchase or take part in an online survey, you should make sure the website is secure. Many retail websites will advertise the fact they are secure. You can check this by asking if the transaction is encrypted,or looking at the bottom right corner of your computer screen to see if there is a small padlock symbol or other security symbol relevant to your computer program.
8. Update Your Anti-Virus Protection
Wherever possible, you should use and regularly update security software such as anti-virus and anti-spyware software to protect your computer from hackers.
9. Don’t Open Suspicious Emails
Emailing is a common way of communicating with family, friends and colleagues. If you receive an email from a person or company that you have not heard of or have no association with, you should delete the email immediately as a matter of caution. You should not attempt to open these emails at all. This is because many emails from fraudsters contain attachments which may include electronic viruses that can seriously damage your computer. These emails are called spam emails. In order to prevent spam emails from causing damage to your computer, many email providers now place all emails from certain known persons to your junk box or folder so that you do not accidently open them in your inbox. Junk mail does not need to opened before it can be deleted and so can be deleted without any undue implications. If you are an employer you should use an email disclaimer on your own emails and consider implementing an email policy within the work place to reduce the risk of employees opening potentially damaging emails.
10. Use a Strong Password
If a hacker obtains your password, even the most effective security software will not prevent them from being able to access your personal information. Therefore it is important to choose a password that offers a strong level of protection. Many simple passwords are easy to guess, such as “password”, or can be obtained by hackers who use software that enables them to try every word in the dictionary. A strong password should be at least seven characters long and contain a combination of letters, numbers and other symbols. It should not contain your name or user name and should be changed regularly.