Staying safe online


Before you go into battle against the scammers and hackers, find people to go into battle with you. Even just their advice, or having someone to talk to, is valuable. So here is a list:-

  1. Computer magazines. They’re a fund of information, and probably have a security section like this one.
  2. Computer shops. They can be helpful. Go in and buy something, then have a chat with the person behind the counter and pick their brains!
  3. Chat to IT specialists – if there are any – at your place of work. They might have some advice.
  4. Evening classes in computing – beginners’ or advanced – at your local college. They can give people a chance to share their knowledge with each other.
  5. Make friends with your bank’s fraud department. Having them on your side and working for you will be a very good help when protecting your money, and they will watch out for any payments you didn’t intend to make, or any devious small print, committing you to regular payments you don’t actually want to make. Small print doesn’t usually appear on the screen, unless you scroll down. The fraud department will probably spot that for you.


  1. Never give personal information, such as passwords, to anyone. This sounds obvious – until someone does actually ask for your personal information! And they will. Sometimes, if it’s a person you yourself have contacted, and who hasn’t taken you by surprise, you might be safe giving one or two details, but never your password, or pin number. If they ask for those things, then you can be 100% certain they’re up to no good.
  2. Don’t click on links in an email, you never know where they might lead, or even what simply clicking on them might do. They might crash your system, flood your computer – or your phone – with malware. You never know. Again, there are people you can trust, like your internet provider, who may send you a link to reset your password – but they will most likely tell you first that they will be doing that.
  3. Make sure your antivirus system keeps an eye open for unwanted emails.  The email protection that antivirus programs provide is good, but sometimes the protection won’t start until it is activated by you.
  4. Don’t use Wi-fi in public places, such as at an airport or café. There are programs out there called ‘network sniffers’. That boy in the corner watching a computer game might be doing no more than that – or he might have one of those ‘sniffer’ programs running in the background. The ‘sniffer’ monitors all of the wireless data flowing through a particular network to reach your email inbox – and that data can include important information – such as usernames and passwords. So wait to check your emails until you are safely in your hotel room, or some other secure and private location.
  5. Watch what you’re sharing on social networks. Criminals can befriend you and easily gain access to a shocking amount of information—where you go to school, where you work, when you’re on vacation—that could help them gain access to more valuable data.
  6. It is a good idea to have separate email accounts: one for friends and family, one for work, etc. Then, even if you take risks with one – because you have to make that call to your family – at least you can be sure your other account will be safe.
  7. Shopping on the Internet can be tricky. The websites of well-known stores like John Lewis and Sainsburys are pretty safe. Amazon look after their customers, too, so you should be safe with them. However, be very careful of shops you don’t know, and free vouchers – or any other pop-ups or balloons – that appear from nowhere. If in doubt, check that it is a secure webpage where you are shopping. There should be a padlock or something next to the address bar, or the letters ‘https://’.


  • If the people who call you won’t say who they are, but ask who you are – ring off.
  • If you say ‘Hello’ and there’s a long pause, and they just say ‘Hello’ back to you – ring off. They’re up to no good.
  • If they say “Congratulations, you’ve won a prize,” they’re after your details, which they would then ask you to provide, pretending that you need to provide them in order to claim their so-called, non-existent prize. So ring off.
  • If they say they’re from Microsoft, or BT, or some huge firm that would never bother to phone an individual, ignore them. Be ruthless. Ring off. They even sometimes phone you when they know you’re online and sitting at your computer. So again, just ring off, otherwise they can get to you.


With unwanted calls – heavy breathing or whatever – just put the phone down on the table (not on the phone cradle, since that allows people to ring again) and let the abuser carry on talking into thin air – and he will also be paying for the call!


Make sure to adjust your Privacy Settings, which you will find in the top right-hand part of the screen, on the blue bar. There’s a little picture/icon of a padlock – it’s black on a blue background, so it’s not easy to see at first. There are various options, so have a look at them all, and click on the ones you want. And then keep checking those options you ticked, in case someone is able to alter them.

There are endless security tips available, and new ones are needed all the time, but these are just a few pieces of good advice. So feel free to copy and paste them and then print them out.

Richard France

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