How to stay safe on the internet
30th January 2017
This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.
For anyone suffering with reduced mobility, the internet can offer a sanctum for many of things that you may struggle to do.
From banking to shopping, if you have a stair lift in your home and struggle to get around when out and about then the internet offers you a place to get a lot of your weekly and daily duties done.
The internet is a fantastic resource and has become an integral part of everyday life. It enables you to stay in touch with people, to access information inaccessible anywhere else and gives you the freedom to do your shopping, banking and even work from the comfort of your own home.
However, for those who are not comfortable or do not completely understand the internet, it can be an intimidating and sometimes dangerous place for you to be spending your time.
Many of us know about the dangers of an email from an unknown address, such as someone claiming to be your bank or an online store.
This is called ‘Phishing’, and is a scam. They will ask you to click on a link, or even send over your own personal information. Now, these emails often appear very genuine and from a reputable source, but you should proceed with extreme caution.
As the UK’s leading source of unbiased, factual information, Get Safe Online provide easily digestible information on online safety.
Covering everything from identity theft and viruses to how to protect yourself online, Tim Mitchell from Get Safe Online offered his advice on how to approach emails:
“Never reveal too much personal or financial information in emails, on social networking and dating sites and in person. You never know who might see it, or use it.”
Joe Siegrist, VP and GM at LastPass has some advice on emails. LastPass is a password manager for your computer, which safeguards and protects your data.
“If an email offer looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Phishing is an email scam trying to steal valuable information from users and is fast becoming one of the biggest risks to unsuspecting web users. Even people who like to think they know about security often fall victim to scams. The most successful phishing emails are typically disguised to look like they come from a known or reputable source and usually contain attachments or download links to malicious software.”
“Being “phished” is problematic because it could lead to revealing personal details such as your bank, health or personal identity data. A common ploy by hackers is telling you your password needs a re-set, or that your bank needs you to re-enter details. Legitimate organisations typically do not request sensitive information via email. Never respond to emails that request personal information, but rather call the organisation directly or login to your account directly from the website. Additionally, you can always check if the website you are visiting is secure by looking for an “https” in the address bar.”
The best thing to do is to check where the email has come from. It may have a name of a store in the email address, or say who they are contacting from. For instance, the email may come from someone from claiming to be from your bank. In the email they may say ‘I am Dave from your bank.’
If they have not specified exactly the company that they work for, or if it is an email that does not relate to any recent activity you have had with them then you should avoid the email and delete it.
This scenario is most commonly associated with emails, but Tim Mitchell does reiterate that you should be careful with your personal details in a variety of situations or scenarios.
“Always consider that online or on the phone, people aren't always who they claim to be. Fake emails and phone calls are a favourite way for fraudsters to approach their victims.”
You may also receive an email with attachments. Attachments from anyone can contain a virus, even if it is from a friend or family member. But when it comes to an email from an email address you do not recognise then you should explicitly avoid the attachment and delete the email.
“Don't click on links in emails, posts, tweets or texts - and don't open attachments - if the source isn't 100% known and trustworthy, or it seems strange that you'd be receiving them.”
Online banking is simply a means for you to access your bank account and complete transactions through the internet.
Most of the time, this service is free from your bank and will mean that you can do anything from paying your bills to sending your friend some money.
It is actually a lot safer than many people think, but this is only as long as you enter the right details and follow the rules.
When you start using online banking you should always check your statement for any unusual behaviour regarding your account, then report it immediately to your bank. As we already said in the email section, do not pass on any of this information to anyone via an email.
Your password should be personal and secure; Tim from GetSafeOnline strongly adviced that you have a different password for all of the sites or accounts you use. We understand that it can be a challenge, but it does mean that you are more secure.
“Choose, use and protect your passwords carefully, and use a different one for every online account in case one or more get hacked.”
Remember to log out – or sign out – of your session when you have finished using the online banking service.
When it comes to banking online, you should never compromise on safety. At the end of the day, you are releasing your most personal details so Joe Siegrist has given us his best advice on securing your passwords.
“Humans are inherently bad at remembering passwords – but here’s how to do it securely:
We hear of people’s data being compromised every day, but many people continue to reuse passwords across their accounts, despite the obvious risks. It’s often too late by the time news of a hack reaches us, but the good news is you can take precautionary steps to make your data secure.”
“Using unique passwords for all your online accounts ensures that if they’re leaked in a breach, they can’t be used by hackers to get into any of your other accounts. A password manager, such as LastPass, is a secure way to generate long, complex and unique passwords without relying on your brain or a piece of paper to remember them. Better yet, it’s easy to import log-in details from all the accounts associated with your email address, and they’re encrypted.”
If you ever have any doubt about the site that you are shopping from, look for their contact information. If they don’t have a phone number be cautious, but if they do then we would recommend giving them a call and enquiring from there.
As Tim says, you should only buy from stores that you trust and use regularly
“Never pay for anything by direct bank transfer - including goods, services, tickets, travel and holidays - unless it's to someone you know personally and is reputable.”
You can simply ask whether they still have that product in stock, or a little bit of information about delivery. There are plenty of websites offering cut-price deals that look great, but more often than not, it’s not genuine - “remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
Treat online shopping like a high-street shop. If you can picture the likes of Marks and Spencers, John Lewis, Argos and their stores on the street then it is worth using their online stores. It is the safest bet when it comes to buying anything online; use a recognised and credible store that you are already familiar with.
You may have already read our guide to shopping online, where we have listed a number of credible sites that may already be familiar to you. It also offers you a number of helpful resources and tips that you can use when you are making a purchase.
Many outlets online require you now to ‘sign up’ and ‘register’ with them. This is fine when it is with a recognised and trustworthy site, like John Lewis. Here you have the option to save your contact and banking information for future purchases.
Now, this is where a secure and robust password is important - really this is something that relates to all of the topics that we are talking about in this article.
Of course, the internet allows you to find new shops with ease, but this is where you can run into trouble. Some sites can be fake…
Staying in touch
This rise of social media, and in particular Facebook, has allowed millions of people to connect with their friends and family regardless of location.
If you struggle to get out of the home this is a great way for you to speak with friends or family that you may not be able to see regularly enough.
There are also a number of other ways that you can keep in touch with people through the internet. Skype is a communication device that once connected to a webcam (whether built in or attached) enables you to enjoy a video call or audio conversation with someone.
Viruses and how to avoid them
You should always be cautious of pop-ups, contests and sweepstakes.
To ensure that your device is safe and secure, you should install an anti-virus or security programme. These are readily available from stores like PC World and can be very reasonably priced for the service they offer.