Simple tips to staying SAFE online
The benefits and convenience of online shopping are huge; BUT increasingly sophisticated technology also brings greater risks to consumers, with online scammers deceiving ever more people.
Here are some tips to stay safe online and remain one step ahead of cyber criminals.
Be careful who you give your personal details to
It is almost too easy to fill in online forms with your address, phone number and email address; but do you really need to supply this information? You would not give personal information to a complete stranger; so be careful over sharing your information.
When shopping online and items are being shipped, your email address and certain delivery details will be required for delivery purposes. STOP before you hit ‘submit’ – the less information you give out the less risk you face. On many websites it is possible to checkout as a GUEST, to block a company holding onto your information. Do not feel obligated to ‘sign up’ to company emails or their latest news.
Beware of free offers
There is normally a catch behind every freebie. Many online free offers require registration of bank details, to cover postage or other handling costs; if you do not scrutinise the fine print, there could be charges for ongoing subscriptions when the offer finishes. Do you want yet another organisation to have your personal details?
When you create your profile page on Social Media BEWARE of the information you share. Is it really necessary to share your date of birth, relationship status, country of residence or mobile phone number? You can also set your social media privacy settings to protect your privacy online. For more information on setting privacy settings checkout the National Cyber Security Alliance guidance for helpful tips.
Be careful on Public WiFi
It’s easy to be attracted to free public WiFi, in a coffee shop or on a bus, but is it totally secure? When you use these channels you have no control over their privacy or who can intercept your private information. DO NOT log in to such accounts as your email or bank in public places where the WiFi is free. Try to ensure you are using a secure connection for banking.
One option would be to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) in public places. A VPN ensures you have a safe connection between your device and an internet server with no one being able to access or check your data. If you are using a ‘work computer’ which has been set up by your employer, it may have a VPN which you can use.
Don’t be afraid to research
If you see an interesting offer online or in an email, take time to so some research. Whilst it is human nature to want to react quickly to an offer, SLOW DOWN, THINK, to avoid possible problems in the future. Conduct an independent internet search to find out more about the offer or company. Read the reviews and ratings on a website. If something doesn’t feel right – ignore it or even better delete it. If you receive a message from a friend, but it seems unexpected or out of character, double check with them first and never send any money.
Have a protective password
The requirement for passwords is ever-growing; creating and remembering them can be challenging. Passwords should be strong and unique to defend your identity from cyber criminals.
- Don’t use obvious information like your date of birth, child’s name or place of birth when creating a password.
- Avoid using number sequences like 1234; this just makes it easier for crooks to crack.
- Consider using a catchphrase or sentence as part of your password, combine it with numbers or special symbols like @#*, or use two or three random words (eg Chair20Potato!)
- Try not to use the same password for all your accounts. This makes you more exposed if your password is stolen, especially on the accounts you may care more about.
- Save your passwords – make sure you keep your passwords in a safe place. It might be tempting to keep them written down, but it’s better that you don’t. You can save passwords on a Password Manager which stores and automatically saves them. There are many highly ranked free password managers such as Dashlane, RoboForm, LastPass and Remember*. It is advisable to weigh up the best options.
- The required length of passwords will vary on many websites but consider making it longer and therefore harder to guess.
- Change your password immediately if you think your password has been stolen.
- Only shop on secure sites that have an SSL certificate (Secure Lockets Layer). The way to spot this is to look at the URL bar at the top of the web browser; the url will begin with https:// and show the icon of a locked padlock which indicates the legitimacy of a website. An unsecured website will begin with http:// – it lacks the final the ‘s’ of a more secure site. A website that stores personal data must have an SSL certificate as this encrypts your data to stop hackers from accessing it.
- Regularly check your bank statements to ensure the correct amount has been charged and that no unexpected transactions have occurred.
- Use your credit card, debit card or financial intermediary like PayPal to pay for goods online as these channels have built-in protection should something go wrong. For a credit card the protection comes from Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. This means that, for purchases worth £100 and over, you can usually get a refund from your credit card provider. If you use a debit card, protection is provided by something called a chargeback, sometimes referred to as a ‘dispute’. This can enable the payment to be reversed, ensuring the cardholder gets a refund. PayPal has buyer protection as part of its policy so you are covered if something goes wrong.
- Look for signs of a legitimate business on a website. What is the returns policy, is there an address listed and a VAT and registration number? Stick to using trusted shops where possible. If something seems too good to be true it probably is.
- Always log off from a site where you have logged in or registered your details.
Keep your antivirus software up-to-date
- Antivirus software adds an extra layer of protection by helping to detect and remove any dangers to your computer. Ensure you buy your subscription from a reputable company.
Max is our resident IT expert. He knows all the terminology and the tricks. If you need help understanding something, Max is the dog for you. He has seven different scarves, all of which are green.