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How to Stay Safe Online, 3 tips in Plain English

    In order to stay safe online, we are all told to watch out for Internet scams, to make sure we have up to date antivirus and keep our personal details secret. Yet many websites we visit asks for personal details of some sort whether it be an email address and name to keep up to date with the latest news from them or full credit card details if we are purchasing something. So how do we know which sites we can trust to keep ourselves safe on the Internet?

    Social Networking Sites

    Social networking sites are extremely popular and because of that, are full of scams. If you use Facebook, you will know that there are lots of surprising and unbelievable offers popping up which often appear to be endorsed by your friends.

    The first thing to remember about an unbelievable offer, whether it be on the Internet or through any other media, is that an unbelievable off is just that – unbelievable.

    In order to enjoy Facebook or any other social networking site, in safety, visit the privacy controls and set them so that only your trusted friends can see your details. On Facebook, the Privacy Settings are listed under the heading ‘Account’ at the top right-hand side of the page.

    Beware of applications like quizzes and competitions that ask for any personal details, to retrieve the results. No genuine, so-called fun quiz, will ask for your mobile number before showing you your results. However, your privacy is only secure so long as you don’t invite a scammer in, so to speak. For example, A regular scam that keeps popping up on Facebook is the application that claims to allow you to see who has been looking at your profile.

    It often comes as a link from one of your friends and when you install it, a small discrete message, which you are liable to pass over asks for access to your profile information. Do not allow any application that you don’t trust have access to your profile.

    If you have already fallen victim to one like this, you need to remove it from your Facebook by going through your Privacy Settings and selecting Edit Your Settings under Applications and Websites at the bottom left-hand side of the screen as in this screenshot.

    If you can’t see all the applications you use, click on Edit Settings at the right-hand side and it will expand to show you all the applications you have ever installed. Once you have removed the application it will not be able to access your profile anymore.

    If you are unsure whether an application is safe, type the application name into Google and see if other people are talking about it. Often, forums can give you some more information about a scam.

    Phishing Scams

    Phishing scams, so-called because they fish for information, are still very common on the internet and email circuit. Emails that appear to be from genuine suppliers like banks and credit card companies ask you to follow a link because your details need to be updated/verified or whatever other scams they can come up

    If there is a link in the email, hover your mouse over it and you will see in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen, the address to which the link takes you. However, the fraudsters have a knack of using addresses that seem convincing, so this in itself is not a good enough check.

    Your bank/credit card company will never ask you to enter your personal details by clicking on a link. If you do have online banking, type the address in yourself through your web browser, do not follow a link in an email.

    If you think you have already entered your information into a fraudulent website, contact your bank or financial institution immediately and change your passwords  so you don’t forget them and security details straight away.

    Online Shopping


    Online shopping has taken the pain out of that Christmas shopping nightmare which inevitably involves standing in long queues on a wet, dark evening while jostling with other shoppers for the last Nintendo Wii on the shelf. However, online shopping has not come without its scammers.

    So how do you know that you are using a site that is safe to buy from? There are a few things to look out for apart from going to well-known sites like Amazon. There are other retailers out there, just as reputable and trustworthy as the big names so here’s what to look for.

    First of all, don’t be taken in by a flashy website. No pun intended. Make sure you look for a contact address and phone number (make sure it’s not a private number), a physical address somewhere. View their returns policy and if you can’t see one, email them and ask for details.

    If you are entering personal details like a credit card number make sure there is a gold padlock symbol on the screen. It will either be at the top at the end of the address bar or at the bottom right-hand side of the screen.

    You can click on this padlock and view the website’s certificate which will verify that the site you are on is the correct one. Most online businesses use another company to process their transactions. They will use a company like Worldpay or Paypal. This is good for the customer because their credit card details are not revealed to the website they are buying from, only to the company/bank processing the transaction. 

    How to stay safe online – Conclusion


    I’ve covered a few of the most popular activities online and hopefully have made you aware of the dangers as well as the pleasures of shopping and networking online. Remember though, it is important that you take responsibility for your security too. Make sure you have antivirus software installed and that it is up to date. It needn’t cost you anything except a little bit of time to install it.