The amount of people with access to the internet all over the world is huge and constantly increasing and so too are the risks online and it’s important we all know how to stay safe online and avoid online identity theft as identity theft online is become a lot more common.
There is unfortunately always those that are looking to take something from you whether it be scam artists trying to sell you a product, identity thieves trying to steal your identity, people trying to steal your credit card details or simply people wanting to use your computer for malicious means by installing viruses and malware.
We are going to give you 5 tips that cost nothing and can help you to stay safe online and avoid online identity theft that is becoming so prevalent.
1. Is the site your using secure?
Is the site you are visiting and putting your credit card details into safe? Surprisingly this is not something people tend to look at when purchasing online. The easiest way to see if a site is secure is to look at its address for “https”
https stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol with secure sockets layer and it is a protocol developed to make internet transactions safer. The majority of sites that do transactions online use and show this in their address.
http://www.awebsite.com – Only has http meaning it is not secure to enter your credit card details on this page.
https://www.awebsite.com – Site has secure socket layer and is more secure for doing internet transactions.
Although like anything else it is no guarantee that the site is 100% secure it is much less likely that your details are in the open to online identity theft. For anyone who wants to know how to stay safe online this has to be our number one tip as it should be very easy to see and requires the least effort of all our tips.
2. If unsure stick it in Google (or another search engine)
One thing I do often when buying from a site I have never bought from before (or using software I have never heard of) is to research it. Simply open Google and ask the question you would like to ask and look at what other people are saying about that site or product. For example I could type into Google:
“Is www.sellmeabedplease.com safe”
“Is superbestthing antivirus a scam”
“suberbestthing online identity theft”
You get the idea. The point is the chances are that someone somewhere has used the website, program or service before and have shared their experiences. Staying safe online and avoiding identity theft is often about research. It may seem long winded but surely its worth taking 5 minutes to have a look and see what others are saying rather than losing your hard earned money.
3. Don’t click on anything you are unsure of in emails or online
To stay safe online we have to vigilant when surfing. The majority of viruses and malware infections I deal with on a day to day basis are due to people clicking on pop ups that come in via a browser that ultimately download malicious software to the computer.
The most popular are programs that say they have found errors on your computer. I would recommend never downloading anything that pops up in your web browser saying you have problems with your registry or that your computer is full of viruses. These programs tend to be the viruses luring you in when in fact you have no issues with your computer.
The other popular way to get programs on your computer is email. If you want to stay safe online never open any attachment that you are not sure of and never click on any of the files. If you do not know who the email is from and it has attachments the best option is usually to leave well alone. This is something I tell all my customers when they ask how to stay safe online and protect their identity. Popular ones tend to be missed delivery emails with attachments that contain viruses.
As a rule don’t click on anything you are not sure of and use tip 2 to research.
4. Ensure you are running security software
This sounds obvious but I have visited people in the past who have done their online banking, given out credit card details, kept personal information on their computer all without ANY kind of security software. This obviously leaves you wide open to online identity theft as you have nothing to stop scammers stealing your identity. It’s a little like leaving all the doors and windows to your home open and putting a sign on the lawn that says “take what you want”
If you want to stay safe online and protect your online identity you MUST have security software installed on your computer to give yourself a fighting chance against these criminals. I could make a whole new post about this but I will try to keep it short
The first problem is one that seems to be more common in the older generation who have little experience on how to stay safe online and protect their identity and personal information. When they buy a new computer most novice computer users don’t realise that the security software only tends to be a 6 month or 3 month trial. These places you buy from don’t tell you this and you are then left unprotected after the trial expires.
The best way to solve this is for all you tech savvy sons, daughters, grandkids to go check your relatives computers to make sure they are not leaving themselves unprotected. There are plenty of good security programs out there like Kaspersky: World Leaders in Security Softwareand even some decent free security programs so there are a number of options.
The second issue with trying to stay safe online is that people seem to think because “they don’t do much” on the internet that they don’t need any protection. The number of times I have heard people say they don’t need security software as they are only on the internet a few hours a week still amazes me today.
Every computer that is connected to the internet should have at the very least the windows firewall running, an antivirus program and something to pick up anything the antivirus misses. Below is what I install on every fresh install I do and its all free:
- Enable windows firewall (sometimes put on an additional firewall if requested)
- Install some free antivirus (avast, avira, AVG)
- Install Malwarebytes (and recommend to run every 2 months)
- Recommend they install rapport if online banking
Now for most users that should be more than adequate protection to stay safe online and it takes no more than 15 minutes to set up and it is all FREE.
5. Never give out information in emails or via online forms
As we said at the start of this article identity theft online is much more common nowadays. One of the more popular scams to steal your online identity are emails claiming to be either from your bank or PayPal. I personally receive 2-3 every single day.
Some of these are well written and even use bank/PayPal logos, the web address looks correct and they seems really authentic when they tell you there is a problem with your account and you need to click here and enter your details.
The pages they will take you to will look exactly like your banks or PayPal’s but the chances are they are NOT. Billions are lost every year due to email scams like this. What the scammers want you to do is to put all that information in the form and press that send button. All your login information is then sent to them giving them a free run at your accounts.
If you want to avoid online identity theft and you receive one of these emails DONT click the links in the emails. If you are not sure as to the legitimacy then either call your bank directly on the telephone or open a new browser window and go to your banks site or PayPal site direct and login from there. This ensures you are not giving the scammers your login details and helps protect your online identity
Nothing is ever 100% safe but if you follow these 5 tips it should help keep you safe online and help you avoid online identity theft and protect you, your money and your identity.