How to stay safe online

Older couple using a computer

With hacks and scams being rife it is important to keep yourself as safe as possible when using the internet and your smart devices.

For this article, we spoke to bloggers to get their advice on how you can stay safe online as well as warning signs to keep an eye out for.

Scam emails

Man typing on a laptop

Scam emails are a particularly common way fraudsters try to trick people, so recognising the signs and knowing what to do next is important.

Beware of phishing emails

Phishing is a type of online scam where fraudsters send an email which, at face value, seems to be from someone you know.

These types of emails can appear to be from a friend or family member, or even a company that you are aware of, such as a bank. The email will usually ask you to click on a link which appears to take you to another website or ask for sensitive information. In either case, it is important not to share any personal details or click on links in an email as Victoria from Lylia Rose explains: “Be very careful when clicking links in emails online. Scammers are very clever and they can send an email to everyone in your friends and family email address book. This means you might receive an email from a family or friend that says something like ‘Hey, check out this great website I found’, or similar, and there will be a link for you to click.

“If you are unsure then never click the link and ask your friend or family member if the message is from them. The same goes with emails that look like they are from your bank, PayPal or HMRC for example.”

There are a few tell-tale signs of a scam email, including the way the email is addressed, and grammatical errors as Victoria explains: “Often you can tell the scam emails as they won’t start with Dear (your first name), but rather Dear valued customer or Dear member. 

“Scam bank or PayPal emails may tell you that you need to change your password or there’s been a security breach on your account. They will be an exact copy of an email from your bank with the correct logo and same layout, but this is because the scammer has cleverly copied a real email and amended it slightly.”

Don’t give out personal or sensitive information online

Bank cards with a padlock

A golden rule of staying safe online is to not give out personal or sensitive information, even if you receive an email from what appears to be your bank.

Sensitive information includes things like your bank account details or passwords. An important point to remember is that banks will not send you emails asking for your account details or password changes. For example, Lloyds Bank says on their website: “We never link directly to our Internet Banking log on page or a page that asks for security or personal details.

“We always greet you by title and surname, as in “Dear Mrs Smith”. We always include part of your main account number, or part of your postcode if you don't yet have an account number. We never ask you to confirm personal or financial information in an email.”

Nilly from Words Behind a Smile says if you are unsure as to whether an email from your bank is genuine “call the official number to make sure you know who you're talking to”.

Be aware of scare tactics

You might receive an email which contains scare tactics which are aimed at making you act fast as NatWest says on their website: “Scare tactics are often used by scammers to make you worry so you’ll act without thinking it through. By taking a moment to think whether the email is genuine, you can stop yourself from playing into the hands of the fraudsters.”

NatWest says phrases such as ‘Someone is making fraudulent payments. Act fast by transferring your money into this safe account.’ And ‘We’ve detected some suspicious activity on your account. Act fast or risk your money being taken’, are all scaremongering tactics and you should not follow the instructions. Sarah from Sarah Trademark told us that she often receives emails falsely claiming to be from a legitimate source: “I get a lot of fake emails pretending to be the bank or a website I shop from and they ask for bank details. It is important to stay alert and be safe.”

Emails stating you have won a prize

Another type of scam email to be aware of are the ones stating you have won a competition or prize.

Generally, unexpected prizes and Lottery scams work by asking you to click on a link or pay some sort of fee to claim your winnings. NatWest urges people not to be fooled: “Are you being offered something unexpected? Unfortunately, being the winner of a competition you never entered doesn’t happen. So, don’t fall for it.”

Scam Watch says that if you haven’t entered a lottery or competition, you can’t win it: “If someone asks you to pay money up-front to receive a prize or winnings, it’s almost always a scam. Legitimate lotteries do not require you to pay a fee to collect winnings.

“Verify the identity of the contact by calling the relevant organisation directly – find them through an independent source such as a phone book or online search. Do not use the contact details provided in the message sent to you.”

What to do if you think you have been scammed

If you think you have been scammed it is best to report it, advises NatWest: “Not only is it important to report phishing scams so we can handle any information you might have given away, but it’s also crucial to report these phishing emails so we can beat fraud. Fraudsters will try and target as many people as they can, so if you report the phishing email to us, we can prevent it spreading further.”

Citizens Advice says victims of scammers should not to feel embarrassed about reporting a fraud because “scammers are clever and scams can happen to anyone”. The organisation says: “Write down the details of the scam, make sure you include who you've been in contact with – write down names, numbers and addresses if you have them. Write down why you're suspicious, what information you've shared – for example, passwords, PINs, or bank details, and whether you've paid any money.”

You can report scams to Citizens Advice via there online Scams Actions Service. They also suggest contacting the police on 101 if the scammer is in your area or if you have transferred money to the scammer. However, if you feel threatened or unsafe in any way call 999.

Natalie from Up Your Vlog believes that staying safe online “starts with an awareness of the web itself”. She went on to tell us: “Educate yourself on what to look out for to avoid becoming a victim. Those who infiltrate your data are only getting more skilled, so it's important to maintain your knowledge of what traps exist currently.”

Create strong passwords

Computer hacker

Strong passwords on your emails and other accounts are incredibly important because they can provide a higher level of security against fraudsters. Get Safe Online says: “The best security in the world is useless if a malicious person has a legitimate username and password.”

Strong passwords should be memorable but also unique; it is best to have a different password for different things. To create a strong password, you could choose a word and add in numbers or symbols and combinations of upper and lower-case letters.

Get Safe Online also advises: “Never disclose your passwords to anyone else. If you must write passwords down to remember them, encrypt them in a way that is familiar to you but makes them indecipherable by others.”

Help prevent identity theft

Shredded paper

Don’t throw any documents or envelopes into the bin or recycling bag with your name or address on. Chaktty from Tech Pally explains why: “Stop throwing sensitive information in the bin, people can use this information to hack into your account online.”

There are many ways to easily remove any personal details from the paper before recycling. Methods include shredding paper, using a black marker or a special identity theft rubber stamp to help block out the words.

The internet is a great way to connect with friends, especially for those who have mobility issues and rely on the help of stairlifts in the UK. However, it is important to protect yourself from fraudsters and stay safe online.

This news article is from Companion Stairlifts. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.