The internet has transformed the way people live, with many doing the majority of their banking, shopping and other financial transactions on their computer.
You can never be 100% safe online – or anywhere – but there are some things to keep in mind if you don’t want to end up the victim of online crime.
Be careful who you share your details with, particularly personal and banking details. If you feel instinctively that something’s not right, stop the conversation or transaction there and then.
Choose passwords that are not obvious to everyone who knows you; keep them safe and away from prying eyes. If you are using a public or shared computer, click ‘no’ if a website offers to remember your log-in or banking details.
If you get an email or text message from your bank or HMRC with a link in it, never click on it. If you think the email/text might be genuine – or you’re not sure – log onto to your account in the usual way to check.
Friends of friends
Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are popular for obvious reasons – chatting online with friends, family and like-minded strangers is a lot of fun.
Be wary about sharing too much personal information, e.g. putting out a call for someone to feed your cat while you are on holiday is effectively advertising that your home will be empty.
Set privacy settings so that only people you actually know in person can view your posts – not their friends or their friends’ friends.
The majority of people using chat rooms and online forums are genuine and supportive of one another. But before you share personal information, remember that you can never be completely sure who you’re talking to. If someone makes you feel uneasy, stop talking to them.
The internet has made identity theft much easier. Action Fraud suggests simple steps to protect your personal information.
- Be cautious about giving personal information to anyone you don’t know – post the bare minimum on social media (and never your date of birth or address).
- Use strong passwords of three letters or more, including upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols – they’re harder to crack.
- Don’t respond to unsolicited emails, including ones that claim to be your bank saying they are concerned your account has been targeted by fraudsters (this is a common ploy to catch you off guard).
- Make sure your computer and all mobile devices are password protected.
Unsurprisingly, bullies have embraced the internet as a place where they can hound their victims day and night. Cyberbullying isn’t confined to children and young people either. So-called trolls are often unknown to their victims but can make their lives a misery. Always report cyber-bullying to the site concerned – and if you are being threatened, contact the police.
Information and advice
Get Safe Online offers lots of practical advice on how to protect yourself against many of the problems encountered online.
Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and internet crime. Call: 0300 123 2040 or report online.
Silversurfers.com has a range of guides.