The best defence against online fraud is personal common sense. You will find hundreds of online articles on this subject with dozens of potential solutions. Here, we’ve narrowed it down to three simple tips which can help make your online experience as safe as it gets.
You are reading these words on sophisticated technology that barely existed 20 years ago. Back then, even search engine giant Google wasn’t around. So it’s little wonder that Aviva’s most recent Real Retirement Report highlighted that those in or approaching retirement have real security concerns about technology, with around two-thirds fearful of being hacked.
To some extent, these fears are justified. If you are younger and have grown up in the digital world, you may be more aware of the scammers, hackers and password crackers that haunt the dark side of the internet. But there’s no need to be complacent. Constant online vigilance is essential as fraudsters, organised criminal gangs and even foreign governments plot to destabilise the secure online portals which manage the savings and investment accounts of millions of people across the UK.
Change your passwords as often as you can. It’s one of the easiest things you can do to protect against potential fraud. Difficult-to-guess passwords come in all sizes, but there are some general rules: longer is better (12 characters minimum); use a mix of upper and lower case letters; don’t use words you find in a dictionary; substitute a letter in a word for a number or symbol (such as: ! ? or /); and don’t re-use previous passwords. Re-inventing new passwords regularly can be a chore, just don’t resort to sticking passwords on a post-it note on your computer screen!
The entry door for intruders into your online world is your email inbox. Your email address is effectively the key to your personal kingdom. It’s also where criminals operate ‘phishing’ scams, gathering your personal information to commit fraud. So make sure you delete that email which claims that your computer or bank account has been compromised. The fraudsters will usually ask for your bank details, to extract a payment from you.
So when that rather unexpected email arrives – from your bank or the tax office – delete it. Sometimes the email could be from someone you recognise, but the message may be rather odd. In that case it could be a virus. Don’t click on the unusual link within it or ring any phone number associated with it. Just delete it – end of story.
You should also apply common sense to surfing the web. Traps can be sprung on websites that lie just slightly off the mainstream. Some links can paralyse your computer. That’s where reputable security software such as Bitdefender, Kaspersky Lab, Norton Security and Avira can help stop issues arising before they start, shooting down viruses before they reach your hard drive.
If you’ve been online at home for several years, by now your home computer is a bank vault of valuable information about your personal life and financial arrangements. It’s important to make sure that if your computer is lost or stolen, its hard drive can’t be read by anyone else. That’s where encryption comes in. In very simple terms, it means scrambling your data. If you are reading this on a recent Apple Mac or a Windows PC, relax. The latest models have FileVault (for Mac) and BitLocker, which can encrypt your data automatically each time you log on or off. Basically it protects your computer’s hard drive so that if someone has physical access to it, the drive is completely unreadable. Apple’s FileVault is the toughest nut to crack, apparently. However, it’s possible that you haven’t turned these scramblers on because you’ve heard they slow your computer down. All things considered, it’s a case of balancing computer speed with safety. Once again, it’s your choice.
To sum up, online security doesn’t have to be complicated. It starts with your password, continues by being careful about where you click and by making sure your personal computer’s vault of information is encrypted.
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