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Staying safe online

As our use of digital technology to access services increases, it is important that we keep ourselves safe online. 

Some ways we can do this are to:

  • Be alert to the fact that scams exist. When dealing with uninvited contacts from people or businesses, whether it's over the phone, by mail, email, in person or on a social networking site, 
  • Know who you're dealing with. If you've only ever met someone online or are unsure of the legitimacy of a business, take some time to do a bit more research. Do a Google image search on photos or search the internet for others who may have had dealings with them. If a message or email comes from a friend or family and it seems unusual or out of character for them, or if the grammar seems strange,  contact them directly to check that it was really them that sent it.
  • Be cautious when people apply time limits & pressure. A common tactic used by scammers is to say something is urgent, and must be done in the next hour or so. This is often used to try and get same day payments arranged immediately, and scammers may also offer unbelievably good prices which they say are limited by either time or availability.
  • Check the sender address on all incoming emails including from ones that look like your bank or other institutions. Bear in mind that when you setup an email account with a free provider such as Gmail – you can say your name is whatever you want. So just because an email says its from Bob Smith, it might not be. Always check the end of an email address to make sure it is correct and not someone impersonating a friend or colleague.
  • Do not open suspicious texts, pop-up windows or click on links or attachments in emails – delete them: If unsure, verify the identity of the contact through an independent source such as a phone book or online search. Don't use the contact details provided in the message sent to you.
  • Don't respond to phone calls about your computer asking for remote access – hang up – even if they mention a well-known company. Scammers will often ask you to turn on your computer to fix a problem or install a free upgrade, which is actually a virus which will give them your passwords and personal details.
  • Keep your personal details secure.  Keep your passwords and pin numbers in a safe place. Be very careful about how much personal information you share on social media sites. Scammers can use your information and pictures to create a fake identity or to target you with a scam.
  • Protect your WiFi network with a password and avoid using public computers or WiFi hotspots to access online banking or provide personal information.
  • Keep your mobile devices and computers secure. Always use password protection, don’t share access with others (including remotely), update security software and back up content. Its not just your home PC that needs security protection, make sure your tablets and personal mobile phone are secure, particularly if you use on line banking, any form of purchasing or email.  Many people I have spoken to do not have security on their mobile phones. Smartphones are mini-computers, so take all the same precautions with them as you would with your own computer at home.
  • Choose your passwords carefully. Choose passwords that would be difficult for others to guess and update them regularly. A strong password should include a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Don’t use the same password for every account/profile, and don’t share your passwords with anyone.
  • Beware of any requests for your details or money. Never send money or give credit card details, online account details or copies of personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust. Don't agree to transfer money or goods for someone else: money laundering is a criminal offence.

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