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8 ways to get safe and stay safe online

ClearScore's 8 ways to get safe and stay safe online, and protect yourself against identity theft and fraud

The internet is a wonderful thing – we can search around for great deals, write blogs, book holidays and watch endless catch-up TV. But with phishing scams increasing, and fraud techniques becoming more convincing, it’s important that we know how to protect ourselves. This blog shows you 8 ways you can get safe, and stay safe, online.

For more useful tips on internet safety, go to Get Safe Online, which covers a whole range of topics from social media and internet shopping to safeguarding children.

1. Guard your financial and personal information

Don’t give out your password, PIN, ID number or log-in details to anyone- even if an email or phone call appears to come from a legitimate company, such as your bank or internet provider.

Fraudsters now commonly use a tactic called ‘social engineering’, where they pose as someone reputable to ask for your financial information. The request usually sounds urgent, such as the need to update your password or prevent your account being suspended, and takes advantage of your concern.

In order to spot these fraudsters, Get Safe Online suggests looking for emails addressed to a generic ‘customer’ rather than your name, coming from a different email address to the organisation’s website address, and containing links to a fake-looking website. Remember that trusted organisations will never ask for your password or PIN over email or phone, so this is another warning sign.

2. Check Your Credit Report

Action Fraud recommends checking your credit report regularly for unfamiliar entries which could be signs of fraud. For example, your credit report will show you any new loans or credit cards taken out in your name, and searches done by lenders. You can check your report easily and for free at ClearScore.com. If you see something suspicious, e.g. a credit card you did not apply for, report it immediately to Action Fraud.

3. Update Your Software Regularly
That pesky pop-up telling you to update your software is actually trying to protect your computer. Updates to software such as Windows, Mac, Internet Explorer, Java and Adobe contain fixes to known security holes. It’s best to update any software that Microsoft or Apple recommends, as old versions leave your computer vulnerable.

4. Choose & protect your passwords
Always use a secure password, particularly for your email and your online banking accounts. Get Safe Online suggests at least 8 characters, using a combination of numbers, letters and punctuation. Remember that letter substitutions (e.g. 1 for i, $ for s, 3 for e) are well known to criminals so are easy to hack.

Try to use different passwords for every website/social media account/email address, and don’t send them by email or write them down anywhere they might be seen. If you’re having trouble remembering your passwords, Get Safe Online suggests using a password vault on your computer or on the internet – but only after reading reviews and getting recommendations.

5. Be wary of attachments and links from unknown sources

Don’t click on links or open attachments from people you don’t know- whether they’re in emails, tweets or Facebook messages. They can contain viruses and spyware, which can be used to commit identity theft and fraud. Get Safe Online suggests hovering your mouse over a link to see its real destination, displayed at the bottom left of your screen. It should be the same as the link text – in the example below, the link text is ‘blog’ and the link is https://www.clearscore.com/blog.

Hover your mouse over a link to see its destination

Hover your mouse over a link to see its destination

6. Be Careful of Public Wi-Fi
The European Cybercrime Centre warns against sending private information while you’re using public Wi-Fi, as these networks are not always secure and can be hacked. Even if you have to log in, the network is not necessarily safe and it’s best to only access your bank account or shop online while you’re connected to your home W-Fi.

7. Install Internet Security Software
Make sure you have a good, reputable anti-virus software installed on your computer- even Macs are not immune to viruses. Get Safe Online recommends Norton by Symantec, Kaspersky and BullGuard. Note that Windows Defender is automatically installed and enabled Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8.

8. Shop Online Safely
When shopping online, only use well known, reputable websites. Check for the green padlock in your browser and a web address beginning in https:// (the ‘s’ stands for secure). Sometimes the padlock will only appear once you are logged in to a shopping site. A tip from the BBC is to never save your card details– enter them again for every purchase.

If you think you have been hit by identity fraud, act quickly. Notify your bank or payment card provider immediately, and report it to Action Fraud. The faster you report fraud, the more likely you are to recover any losses. You can contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 20 40 or by visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk.

 

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