Published: 08/12/2020

Staying safe online - the basics

The covid-19 pandemic has led to a rapid rise in scams. With many of us doing our Christmas and other shopping online, there has never been a more important time for staying safe online.

Online safety basics

Create complex passwords – creating strong, unique passwords for all your accounts is the best way to keep your personal and financial information safe.

Use a mixture of upper and lower case, numbers and special characters such as 1 for i.

Consider using a password manager to help you store and create strong passwords for all of your accounts

Some additional layers of security are:

  • If possible, switch on multi-factor authentication for your accounts. This is when multiple pieces of information are required to verify your identity. So, as well as entering your password, you would need to enter, for example, a code that is sent to your mobile phone
  • Install security software. Anti-virus software will look for and remove viruses before they can infect your computer, and anti-spyware software prevents unwanted adverts from popping up and stops programs tracking your activities or scanning your computer for private data. There are a number of paid packages available, as well as free ones like AVG and Avast.
  • Be careful what you share online. It’s easy to share personal information online. Watch for the Facebook posts, such as, what was your Mum’s name. Just be aware that it could be seen by someone who tries to impersonate you or guess your passwords, or someone looking to capitalise on the fact you’re not at home. Posting photos of your Christmas tree with presents underneath one day then tagging yourself somewhere away from home is just one way of making it easy for criminals to take advantage.
  • Keep your security updated – switch on automatic updates so you’ll always have the most up-to-date protection.

Common types of online scams

Email scams – fake emails that criminals hope will trick you into entering personal or financial details. They might direct you to a fake website, ask you to fill in an online form or attach harmful documents and links. Some scams look genuine, but sometimes there are obvious giveaways, including poor spelling and grammar, requests for personal information (which a genuine company would never do), and threats – for example, ‘unless you act now, this deal will expire’.

Fake websites – scammers create fake websites which look official and ask you to provide personal or financial information. For example, a fake bank website may be set up asking you to update your account or security information. They can look very believable, so be on your guard.

Viruses – programs that spread from one computer to another. Often, they are sent in an email via an attachment – when you open the attachment, it releases the virus. Scammers then gain control of your computer, or the virus scans your computer for personal information.

If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, report it to Action Fraud.


Last updated: 15/12/2020