Whether you use the internet to access your favourite online games, keep up to date with friends on Facebook or something altogether more complex, your online security should always be your number one priority.
In our constantly changing digital landscape it can be hard to know how to do just that, but fear not, that’s why we’re here! We have compiled a list of great and easy to follow tips to turn you from an easy target into a formidable foe for even the most determined of online fraudsters.
Why Stay Secure?
What’s the worst that could happen online? What if I don’t use my computer for online banking or making purchases, is there anything to worry about then?
All perfectly rational questions, but in terms of online security, all very naïve ones too. It’s not just cold hard cash that fraudsters are after, its things like your sensitive personal data (address, tax details etc) that they’re looking to get their hands on.
In worst case scenarios, fraudsters can access private information that you may have shared online or your browsing history and use it to blackmail you. There are even reports of fraudsters stealing pictures from social media accounts and using them on pornography sites.
In short then, there’s a lot of reasons to stay secure online but it’s not all doom and gloom, you have the power to stop the fraudsters in their tracks. Let’s take a look now at some of the simple steps you can take to stay safe.
Pay With Secure Payment Providers
The vast majority of people enter their card details every time they buy something online, even though it is a risky business. When you are about to enter your payment details online, the first thing to do when you buy something online is look at the left-hand corner of your URL and see if you can see the padlock icon.
If you can, that means you’re on a trusted website. The second thing to do is pay through a secure payment provider such as Apple Pay, Google Pay or another form of digital wallet like PayPal. Majority of legitimate secure websites will accept these payment methods. For example, when playing online poker you want to make sure you are playing at online poker site which accepts trusted payment options. 888 poker are an example of a site who are secure and also offer a range of established protected payment options.
The result is that the seller gains access to a code that allows them to withdraw the agreed money from your account. They never get to see your card details and they never have a chance to store them, meaning they’ll never be able to lose them to hackers and fraudsters!
When we think of computer safety our minds almost instinctively jump to cartoon images of laughing faces locking computer screens. In reality though viruses aren’t as simple and straightforward as that.
One of the biggest things to look out for is spyware, a form of technology that is placed on your computer or device to spy on your activities and use your information against you. The best defence against this is a tried and test antivirus that you keep up to date and use regularly.
Unsure as to what antivirus software to go for? Take a look at this online guide.
Use a VPN
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are often seen as a tool that people only use when they want to access overseas content on Netflix or get into easier lobbies when online gaming.
Their primary purpose though is to make your online activity private which they do by encrypting your internet traffic and routing it through a server owned by the VPN Company. It also hides your IP address which will reduce the amount of intrusive advertising that you see online.
Keep Password Aware
In a recent study it was found that 1 in 4 Americans use passwords as basic as “password”, “qwerty” and “12345” to protect their online accounts. It was also found that 2 in 3 people used the exact same password for all of their online accounts.
With this in mind, is it any wonder that hacking into people’s accounts is seen as such an easy and viable career choice for criminals?
Be smart and don’t make it easy for the fraudsters. Using a weak password is the equivalent to leaving your phone, wallet and keys on your dashboard before going into a shop and leaving your car door not just unlocked, but wide open.
There is a great deal of stigma attached to some forms of online scams and frauds which, counterintuitively, makes the problem worse. When someone falls for an online phishing scam like the infamous ‘Nigerian lottery’ they are often ridiculed and made to feel silly, which is not helpful.
What is helpful though is employing a healthy level of scepticism to all of your online interactions. When you receive emails from unknown contacts, ask yourself firstly why that person would be contacting you and do some research to confirm that they are who they say they are.
If you get an email from your bank informing you of a problem, pick up the phone and give them a call to confirm it’s them. Check the email address that it has come from to see that it corresponds to the details on your banks website.
When you click on links on social media to newspaper websites, check the URL to see that it checks out. Is that really an authentic link that you can trust, or is it a fake article masquerading as an authentic one to fool you into doing something you shouldn’t?
Finally spend a little bit of time familiarising yourself with the current scams and frauds out there. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website has a great database of the most popular scams in circulation and a list of historic ones too.