This is a brief overview of just some of the steps you can take to stay safe when using the internet.
- Protect your email by using a name-brand anti-virus program. Most anti-virus programs include protection for your email, as well as protection from malicious web sites, malicious file attachments and many even include a Firewall to help protect against unauthorized access to your device.
- Do not click on a link in an email and then enter confidential information (such as your online banking User Name and Password) on the web page which opens. Even if it looks like the right web page, it can be a copy and criminals are waiting for you to enter your information so they can steal it.
- Do not accept, without double checking, any instructions you receive by email for transferring money or wiring money. Even if you are expecting instructions to transfer or wire funds, it is possible the instructions you received are fraudulent. Call the person or company you are doing business with to confirm the instructions are legitimate and accurate. Make certain you confirm the destination (bank and account number) and not just that you should send the funds. Do not call by using a phone number which may be contained in the email. Obtain the phone number from a phone directory or phone book or from your own records.
- A special word about person to person payments. Many person-to-person payment systems such as Popmoney do indeed send emails which contain links for you to receive funds sent by someone else. If you receive an email or text with instructions on receiving money and you wish to complete the process you should (1) Know the person sending the money and (2) have been expecting that person to send you money.
- Do not open file attachments unless you are certain of the sender's identity and you have an anti-virus program installed on your device.
- Purchase a name brand anti-virus program and set the options to automatically update at least once a day.
- Beware of messages not originating from your anti-virus program which pop up and claim your computer or mobile device has a virus. These pop ups are always fraudulent. A web page you are visiting cannot determine whether or not your computer has a virus. If you get such a pop up, do not click on any buttons or links it may contain. Even a "Cancel" or "Close" button is dangerous. Often, the best solution is to simply close your web browser and reopen it. If the pop ups persist contact a reputable computer repair company in your town.
- Be careful how much information you share. Many social media platforms, such as Facebook, include privacy controls. It is up to you to decide how much about yourself you wish to share, but allowing everything you post or do to be public can be hazardous. If your social media privacy settings allow any member of the public view your wall or page or posts it is possible that criminals can glean enough information about you to impersonate you, steal your identity or impersonate someone you actually know.
- Do not announce in advance your plans to be out of town. Posting that you are leaving on vacation or will be away for any period of time means anyone who sees that information will know your home is empty. Posting that you will have visitors can reveal that their home will be empty.
- Do not include contact information such as email addresses, phone numbers or street addresses in your posts. If you need to provide that information to make contact with someone, use a private message instead of a post.
- Do not accept "Friend" or "Follow" requests from people you do not know.
"For Sale" sites
- Be cautious about offers that are too good. Consider it suspicious if someone is selling something for far less than it is worth.
- Pay attention to details in photographs of items for sale. If a post offers a car for sale in Illinois but the photos of the car include palm trees in the background it may very well be scam. Posts in which the seller does not have complete knowledge of the item for sale also are suspicious.
- Beware of meeting someone to complete a purchase. If you need to meet try to meet in a public place. Check with the police department in your community about a suitable meeting place. Some communities actually allow the parties to meet in the police station lobby...something no criminal is going to want to do.
- Offers to ship cars are often fraudulent. It is possible you may wish to buy a car in a distant state and it will be necessary to ship the car. However, offers of cars for sale which automatically offer or require shipping are highly suspicious. It means the seller does not want you to see the car in person...probably because it does not exist.
- Use a complex password. Your password should be at least eight characters and use at least one upper case letter, one lower case letter, one number and one symbol.
- Do not log in to your online banking from unsecured WiFi spots.
- Do not give your online banking username and password to anybody else.