Most of us just could not imagine our lives without the internet – it is such a fascinating place and you can literally find just anything you need to know. Anyone with a computer and internet connection can shop online, socialise with friends, do their banking, book a holiday and of course access a huge variety of videos, music, stories and news items from around the world.
But it is also a haven for criminals and scammers
Many people worry about the dangers of using the the internet because of this. However, with some simple rules and a dollop of common sense, you can keep yourself and your identify safe.
When you educate yourself about the dangers, you put them into perspective so they are clearer and easier to avoid. Everybody who goes online needs to know how to spot and avoid online risks.
If something sounds too good to be true then it probably is. A stranger wouldn’t really give you large sums of money for a little help, and it’s impossible to win a lottery without ever entering it. Ignore emails like these completely.
Keep your passwords safe and change them often. Remember not to use your name, birthday, your pet’s name or any other obvious piece of information. Create passwords with a combination of at least eight letters and numbers, using both upper and lower case letters. Never give your password to anyone. There's no legitimate reason for anyone to ever contact you to ask for your password.
Keep your primary email address private. Use your primary email address for people you know and trust. You can get a free email account and use that for all your other online activity. Select a gender-neutral username. Free email providers include Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo.
Don't give out information simply because it is requested. Give as little information as possible, and if they insist on information that doesn't seem justified, leave to go elsewhere. Some people just give false information at such sites, especially if they don't plan to return in the future.
Watch what you "say" online. If you would not say something to a normal stranger, then don't say it online either.
Don't put your company name, title, email address, address, and phone/fax number as a signature on your emails unless your employer requires you to do so. If so restrict use of that email account to dealings with colleagues and customers.
Never use a business account for personal use as this could reveal your IP (internet protocol) address to others. Restrict personal internet use to home and public access computers.
Don't provide your credit card number or other identifying information as proof of age to access or subscribe to a web site run by any person or company with whom you are not personally familiar or that doesn't have an extremely good, widespread reputation. You can check consumer advocacy resources before giving out your credit card number to anyone to be sure that your trust is justified.
It is a good idea to have one dedicated credit card just for internet transactions with a low credit limit. If you need extra funds to cover a purchase, you can always move these into this card account just beforehand. When making any online payments by credit card, ensure that you are using a reputable vendor and that you enter your details on a secure site. To see if a site is secure, look for “https” at the beginning of the web address or the little lock icon on your browser – a closed lock indicates a secure site.
Monitor your children's internet use, even if you have trained them carefully about the dangers. There is no software available that can replace the active involvement of a concerned parent. Instruct children never to give out personal information without your permission. Consider posing as a stranger to befriend them just to see if they react in the way you have taught them.
Be very cautious about putting any pictures of yourself or your children online anywhere, or allowing anyone else (relatives, schools and other institutions) to publish any. Some stalkers become obsessed because of an image. A random email address or screen name is less attractive to such obsessive personalities than a photograph would be. Use the blocking mechanism to limit to “friends only” on social media sites.
Be very wary about suggestions from someone you have met on the internet to meet in real life . If you really must, then make sure you have friends present and the venue is very public.
Look into safeguarding programs or options your online service provider might offer. These may include monitoring or filtering functionality. Use e-mail filters to block spam and install and use a firewall, pop-up blocker and spyware detector. Make sure you have a secure anti virus program in place which scans your computer for viruses on a regular, daily basis. Then learn how to configure your computer to keep all of these solutions working efficiently.
The most important part of keeping safe online is keeping informed. With protection and knowledge, you can enjoy the internet without worrying.
Jane writes for Healing Natural Oils, a producer and retailer of high-quality, all-natural treatments for a variety of conditions as well as a range of beauty products. Apart from writing about those various conditions, she also covers general health, environmental and other subjects of interest. She has lived in Kenya as well as Cape Town, South Africa and spent time in San Diego, USA. She now lives in Somerset, England with regular visits from her far-flung children and grandchildren. She is a keen gardener and enjoys growing fresh fruit and vegetables with her husband on their joint allotment. As a result, there is something available to use in the kitchen virtually all year round. Her regular posts can be found on our blog.