So much of our daily routine is now online, such as banking, shopping and social networking. However, this has provided criminals with opportunities to exploit people in various ways. The advice below provides additional information regarding how you can protect yourself from scams whilst online.
How can I protect my identity and surf the internet safely?
- Keep your computer browser and security software up-to-date and use firewall and spam filters.
- Block spam emails.
- Use securely encrypted Wi-Fi at home – if you can access it without entering security data then so can someone else nearby. Be cautious if using public space Wi-Fi and NEVER enter passwords or personal data.
- NEVER click on an e-mail link from an unknown source. Opening fake emails can infect your computer with a virus allowing someone to remotely access and control your system and data.
- Avoid risky websites, including supposed investment sites.
- Always change default passwords at the earliest opportunity and replace for strong passwords with random characters. Avoid passwords like dates of birth and mother’s maiden name.
- Don’t respond to unsolicited e-mails or telephone calls asking for you to provide some of your personal information i.e. name, date of birth, national insurance number – see more information below.
- Banks and financial institutions do not send emails asking you to verify your bank details by clicking on a link. Do not trust such emails, no matter how authentic they appear. You can always call your bank using the phone number on a genuine piece of correspondence.
What should I think about when using internet on my Mobile Devices?
- Set security protocols to the highest level and use PIN codes to lock SIMS, keypads and voicemail, particularly when your mobile device contains personal data.
- Take care when charging your mobile on someone else’s computer or a charge point – many chargers are combined with data connection so you could have your data stolen without knowing.
- Avoid downloading apps from non-official sites – they can be used to install malware.
- Be watchful for others looking at your screen.
- Users should be aware that photos taken from many phones have embedded location information.
- Never respond to spam messages received via SMS or bluetooth, even to text ‘STOP.’
- Don’t scan a Quick Response (QR) code that looks as if it may have been interfered with or stuck over with a replacement, or is not from a trusted source – it can leave your phone open to a security attack.
What is Phishing?
Phishing is when criminals use fake e-mails or web links to acquire sensitive personal information, such as passwords, usernames, or bank account details. This is used to commit fraudulent or even criminal acts in your name, leaving you responsible for the consequences. Such emails and linked websites often appear genuine but are designed to trick people into entering personal details to access your identity, steal from your bank account or infect your computer with a virus which allows them to control your system.
What kind of things might indicate Phishing?
- E-mail uses generic terms like ‘Dear account holder’.
- Email is threatening and states that urgent action is required.
- Email contains an unrecognisable link.
- Email from a company you normally have dealings with but suggesting your payment method or credit card details have failed to register.
- Spelling errors contained within the email.
- Email address is different from trusted company website.
- Unexpected e-mails from a company you have no business with.
- No padlock sign on website and no https:// at the beginning of web address.
What should I look for when buying goods or paying for services online?
- Use common sense – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Use secure websites – look for https:// in the address line and the padlock image.
- Does the company have a real address and phone number? What are their returns and data privacy policies? Call them if you are in any doubt.
- Use a secure payment option such as PayPal or a dedicated or pre-pay credit card for all on-line purchases.
- Be aware that sponsored links at the top or side of search pages pay to be there. These are not always reliable and can be used by criminals.
- Ensure the web address shown on the search matches what appears on the bottom bar when you hover over the link – if it doesn’t you could be taken to a phishing site.
For more information about how to use the internet safely and securely, visit www.getsafeonline.org
I hope that the advice will be useful and should you have any queries, please don’t hesitate to contact the Formartine Community Policing Team.
Please telephone Police Scotland on 101 or 999 if it is an emergency or to remain anonymous telephone Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.