Scams Awareness Month: Avoid falling victim to online scams

Published: Friday 22nd July 2016 by HEY Today editor

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Fraudsters are increasingly dreaming up new ways to trick you into parting with your personal information or hard-earned money, but the good news is that you can protect yourself to help make sure you don’t fall prey to their illegal activity.

Below is advice to help you reduce the chances of unscrupulous people getting hold of your personal information through your computer, tablet or mobile device.

What to do if you think you’ve received a scam email

  • Don’t reply to the email, even to say ‘no’, as it will let the sender know that your email address is active and they could send you further emails.
  • Don’t click on any links in the email or open any attachments. Always type the website address instead or click on a pre-saved address in your bookmarks.
  • If you’ve already clicked on a link and opened a website, don’t give any personal information out.


Exercise caution

It may sound like overly simplistic advice, but using common sense will go a long way to make sure you don’t fall foul of online scams.

  • Don’t share personal information online, such as name, address, telephone numbers or bank account details. Be wary of any person or organisation that contacts you asking you to reveal personal information. Your bank will never contact you by email asking for this information.
  • Be very careful about what personal information you share on social media. Scammers can use your information and pictures to create a fake identity or target you with a scam.
  • Don’t open or reply to emails from people you don’t know and certainly don’t click on email links from unfamiliar sources. Simply delete them after reporting them to the relevant authorities.


Passwords

Taking some security precautions to make sure your computer is harder to access than Fort Knox is a good idea.

You might want to start by creating a strong password that you’ll need to enter every time you log in to your computer. The longer the password, the harder it is to guess.

You should apply this approach to all passwords (emails, bank accounts, shopping online etc).

Tips for creating a strong password

  • Use a mixture of lower case and upper case letters, numbers and symbols
  • Don’t share your password with anyone – not even friends and family
  • Don’t use easy-to-guess passwords – such as your name or date of birth
  • Update your password regularly – every couple of months, for example


Use anti-virus software

Some websites can damage your computer with viruses but anti-virus software can keep them at bay.

Anti-virus updates may be time-consuming and pop up when you’re in the middle of doing something important but it’s vital that you keep your software up to date to make sure they’re as secure as possible.

It’s also good practice to install the latest version of your web browser because it will have the most up-to-date security features.

Remember: There are flaws in any software system and it’s only a matter of time before someone discovers them, so if your security software is not up to date your devices could be vulnerable to hackers.

Filter junk email

Check your email account is set up to filter junk email as this may help to remove some of the scam emails from your inbox automatically.

Secure links

If you shop or pay bills online, make sure the website is secure when entering payment card details.

You can do this by:

  • Checking there’s a padlock symbol in the website address bar. This should appear when you log in or register. If the padlock is on the page itself, rather than the website address bar, it might be a fraudulent site.
  • Checking the website address begins with ‘https://’. The ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’.
  • If you’re using the latest version of your browser, the address bar or the name of the site owner will turn green.

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Published: Friday 22nd July 2016 by HEY Today editor

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