Today, February 5th, 2019, marks Safer Internet Day, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to share with you all a few tips on how best to protect yourself online, so we can work together for a better internet.

Passwords:

You’ve heard it before, but creating strong and unique passwords for accounts is the best way to keep yourself safe. Strong passwords can prevent people from committing fraud and other crimes, including accessing your bank account and impersonating you on social networking sites. Here are our tips on creating a strong password:

  • Don’t use personal information.
  • Create longer passwords.
  • Use a mix of different types of characters to make the password harder to crack.
  • Use different passwords for different accounts.
  • Don’t type passwords on devices or networks you don’t control.

Protect your privacy on social networks:

Social networks such as Facebook and Instagram are a great way to stay in touch with family and friends, see what people are up to, and find out about local events. Just make sure you protect yourself against people who might want to steal your personal information – take a look at these tips:

  • Use a strong password.
  • Use the privacy features on the site to choose who can see your profile and your posts.
  • Avoid publishing information that identifies you – such as your telephone number, address and date of birth.
  • Be selective with friend requests.
  • Remember to log off when you’re done.

Email scams:

Scammers will often send ‘spam’ emails in the hope that people will enter their personal details. You might be directed to a ‘bogus’ website, or tricked into thinking you’ve won the lottery or some sort of prize. Some of these emails may also have a link or file attached for you to open – opening these links and downloading these files can be harmful to you and your computer. Here are our tips on recognising email scams:

  • You don’t know the sender.
  • Equally, emails from ‘trusted’ sources such as your bank, HMRC, or anywhere else that you have an online account. These emails will ask you to click on a link and disclose personal information.
  • The email makes and offer that seems to good to be true.
  • The message asks for personal information – a reputable company should never send an email asking for passwords or credit card numbers.
  • The email contains poor spelling and grammar – if a large company sends out a message on behalf of the company, the spelling and grammar is usually checked and double-checked.

If you see a suspicious email, don’t reply to it or open any links. Delete the email straight away. If the email claims to be from an organisation, contact them directly using details found on their official website to find out more.

Health scams:

False and misleading claims may be made about medical-related products, such as miracle health cures, and fake online pharmacies may offer medicines cheaply. However, the actual medicine delivered can turn out to be poor quality; it might not actually work; it may even be harmful to your health. Here are a few things to watch out for:

  • Marketing claims such as ‘quick fix, ‘miracle’, ‘secret and ‘cure’.
  • Phrases like ‘no-risk’, ‘money-back guarantee’, ‘free-gift included’ or ‘limited supply’.
  • Products that promise cures for diseases with no known cures.
  • Testimonials about miracles or breakthroughs that haven’t been documented in medical literature.

Cyberbullying:

Cyberbullying is any form of bullying which takes place online. It affects people of all ages and from all walks of life. It can lead to feelings of low self-esteem, distress and even depression. Here are some steps you can take if you’re either victim, or see cyberbullying taking place:

  • Don’t engage with a bully. Responding will often only make the situation worse – a reaction is just what the bully’s looking for.
  • Block a bully from contacting you, or delete them as a friend if you can.
  • Report bullying to relevant site or network.
  • Unplug from technology – it might be worth taking a break from your computer, tablet or smartphone. Exercise is a great way to boost self-esteem and reduce stress.
  • Distressed, worried or depressed? Don’t be afraid to talk to someone or ask for help.

Online Community guidance:

Finally, here's a reminder of our own guidance on staying safe and protecting your privacy whilst using the Community...

The Online Community can only be used by those aged 16 years and over

Please remember that all the information that you post here is public – it can be read by people not logged in to the Community and potentially found through search engines. Discussions and blogs, including any images you post, are all public; only your profile and private messages are private.

  • Please do not post your own personal information such as your real full name, home addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses.
  • Do not share your profile from any social networking site with other users, as they can find personal information about you from it and this could be a security risk.
  • Please do not ask other users to post their personal information such as home addresses, telephone numbers, or email addresses, and do not pressure anybody into revealing information about themselves that they do not wish to.

Do you have any tips you feel our Community might find useful when it comes to staying safe on the internet? Go ahead and share them in the comments section below.

If you’ve any questions about using the Community, staying safe and protecting your privacy on the site – you can always email myself and the team at community@macmillan.org.uk.