Staying safe online

18370512310 February is Safer Internet Day, which is organised by Insafe each year to raise awareness of the importance of safe and responsible internet browsing. With more of us using online shopping, internet banking and social media websites than ever, here are some tips to stay safe while online …

Update your passwords

Research from Cyber Streetwise shows that the average Brit has 19 online accounts that require passwords, but nearly half of us have unsafe password habits. To stay safe online, make sure you use a different password for every account, update them regularly and don’t include personal information or common words in your password. You should also try to include a mix of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.

If all this sounds like too much effort, try downloading the 1Password app from iTunes which will do all the hard work for you. The app creates strong, unique passwords for every account and stores your information securely.

Be aware of what you share

Many of us are guilty of over-sharing on Facebook and Twitter – and we’re not talking about those daily pictures of what you’re having for dinner! Sharing too much personal information can not only affect your career prospects (with 37 per cent of hiring managers admitting to checking prospective employees’ social media pages before offering them the job), it can also put you at risk of identity fraud and even burglary.

Try to avoid mentions of personal details such as your date of birth, address, phone numbers, year of graduation or mother’s maiden name, and avoid posting holiday dates that advertise the fact you have an empty home. Make sure you also actively use your privacy settings so you know what you’re sharing with who, and don’t accept friend requests from those you don’t know.

Be wary of emails

Unfortunately “phishing” emails set up by fraudsters to trick you into disclosing personal information are a common part of life for most internet users. However, it is possible to spot the signs of a spam email before you give away any information that could potentially lead to identify fraud or financial loss. Here are some signs an email may be less than genuine:

  • An unofficial sender email address. If an email claims to be from a trusted company but it is not in the official or regular format, be wary. Fraudsters are experts at making emails look like their official counterparts, but these subtle differences can often give them away. Check company websites to find out their official email handle and check it against the one in your inbox.
  • Requests for personal information. If the email sender is asking for personal information such as passwords, bank account details or credit card numbers be on your guard. Legitimate companies will never request these details via unsolicited emails.
  • An urgent warning. Phishing emails will often try to hurry and scare you into action with warnings about account misuse, urgent action required on your part, or threats to close down your account. If you receive such an email, close down the browser and give the company a call to assess whether the warning you’re being given is genuine or not.
  • Sketchy information. If the email sender doesn’t seem aware of your name (e.g. using a generic ‘Dear Customer’) or is contacting you about a service you don’t remember using, the odds are the email is not legitimate.

Remember, if you are not sure whether an email is authentic, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. Don’t open any unknown attachments, give out personal information or click on any links. Instead, close down the browser, log in to your account using the official website address – or give the company a call using a number listed on the website – and clarify with them any concerns you may have.

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