Criminals love the internet – it allows them to pry into the lives of the unwary, steal information, and even commit fraud and empty bank accounts.
It’s surprisingly easy to be tricked by scammers, but a few steps can keep you safe online and protect your data and identity.
Eight signs that your identity has been stolen.
Use strong passwords
Choose strong passwords for your online accounts, such as email, shopping and banking.
Passwords should be at least eight characters long and include both upper and lower case letters, numbers and keyboard symbols.
Never use your name or birthday, or other easy-to-guess passwords such as ‘password’ or ‘12345678’.
Use a different password for each of your online accounts – that way if someone hacks into one account, they can’t access all the rest.
Read more about creating secure online passwords.
Safeguard your computer and home wi-fi
Secure your home wi-fi network with a strong password to stop drive-by hackers from logging onto your home wi-fi network.
Install anti-virus software on your PC and set it to update automatically. Perform weekly scans to prevent viruses and other malware from infecting your computer and stealing your private information.
Turn on your computer’s built-in firewall to stop malicious threats via the internet.
Avoid public wi-fi networks
If possible, avoid using public wi-fi networks.
Fake wi-fi hotspots are easily set up and once you connect, criminals can then steal your usernames and passwords to access your accounts.
Even if a wi-fi hotspot is genuine, the private information you send back and forth across the internet may be not encrypted and therefore can be intercepted by those with criminal intent.
Read more tips for using public wi-fi networks securely.
Safeguard your privacy by choosing to shop only with reputable, well-known websites.
If in doubt, check the website has a contact page and call the number to check it is real.
Only enter your payment card details if the webpage shows a padlock symbol in the address bar or web browser frame – and make sure the webpage address begins with https rather than the standard http.
Avoid eBay scams.
Protect your main email account
Create a separate webmail account to use with social networking, shopping sites and other sites you’ve registered with, as these are more likely to be targeted by scammers.
That way, you can protect your main email account, which may include banking or other sensitive personal information, from spam and other phishing attacks.
And avoid linking accounts – for example when websites allow you to use your Google login on their site. While this is convenient, if one account is compromised, all your linked accounts will be at risk.
Six signs that an email is a scam.
Some websites use pop-ups – small windows that open automatically when you visit a webpage. Some may contain malware or phishing scams, so it’s best to block these in your web browser’s security settings.
Cookies – small files that allow a website to identify you – can leave your personal information vulnerable to identity thieves.
You can choose to block all websites that you visit from using cookies or allow cookies only on websites that you trust – look for this in your web browser’s settings.
Find out more about cookies.
Turn off password saving and auto complete
Browsers save your passwords and other personal details that you’ve entered into a website form, then automatically fill in this information when you next visit the site.
Always turn this option off in your web browser settings before using a shared or public computer as it gives complete access to your accounts.
Always log out of your accounts and delete your browsing history when you’ve finished using a public computer.
Read more tips for staying safe online.
Private web browsing
Use your web browser’s private browsing mode, as this means you can surf the internet without generating a browsing history.
To prevent websites and advertisers from tracking your online activities, turn on the ‘do not track’ option in your web browser’s settings.
Alternatively, use a search engine called DuckDuckGo, which does not store information about what you search for or where you go.
For more tips and useful information, browse our technology articles.