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Staying safe online

During this year’s Getting Online Week, we want to help you make the most of being online in a safe and secure way. The Internet is a great tool, but you should be aware of a few things so that you don’t get scammed online.

Protecting your information

Online safety is all about taking simple steps to prevent access to your personal information from cyber criminals.

  • Choose strong passwords with a mix of upper and lower-case letters, numbers and special characters. Protect your passwords by never reusing them or storing them in your devices.
  • Disable automatic logins, and always log out when you’re done.
  • Choose accounts that have two factor authentication.
  • Keep your software up to date.
  • Always access your accounts from a secure location, making sure that you’re not connected to public Wi-Fi (which isn’t as secure as a private network).

Safe websites

Internet browsers will often warn you just before going onto a website if it doesn’t seem secure, but there are some other checks that can tell you whether or not a website is safe to go on:

  • A legitimate website address will start with ‘https://’, with the ‘s’ standing for ‘secure’.
  • If you click on the padlock symbol to the left of the website address bar, you should see information about the website or certificate, telling you who is registered on the site. If you receive a warning about the certificate, avoid the website.
  • Double-check the website domain name to make sure it’s legitimate - is it spelt correctly?


When it comes to shopping online, you need to make sure you are ordering from a brand that you can trust.

There are fake shops on the Internet that will attempt to steal your money, bank details and personal information, so make sure to follow these checks before pressing ‘buy’:

  • Read some online reviews of the website – what are they suggesting?
  • Are the product prices what you would normally expect from that brand? For example, high-price goods sold at much lower prices are a tell-tale sign that the website is a scam.
  • Websites or ads that rush you into buying products that sound too good to be true often are, don’t feel pressured by the ‘one day only’ offers.
  • On any website where you are potentially going to spend money, make sure you look for the brand’s contact details – business address, telephone numbers, etc. If there aren’t any, don’t go through with the payment.

If you’ve gone through these checks and think it’s safe to go ahead, you can protect yourself further by remembering to never pay via bank transfer. Paying using a credit card will offer you more protection, and using online money services such as PayPal will mean that scammers won’t be able to get hold of your bank details.

Romance Scams

Dating or romance fraud is when you think you’ve met your perfect partner online, but they aren’t who they say they are.

According to police reports, most dating scams stem from online dating websites or forums, where victims are fooled by criminals using fake dating profiles. Once these fake profiles have gained the trust of their victims, they begin to request money for various false cases.

This could be anything from a supposed medical problem to asking for travel money to come ‘visit’ you - they may even manipulate you into giving out intimate pictures or videos, that they can then blackmail you with to give them money to not share.

Here are some tips to avoid being tricked by a romance scam:

  • Protect your privacy – don’t reveal too much online.
  • Keep all of your conversations on the dating website so that your privacy is protected, and use a disposable email for signing up.
  • Never send money to people you haven’t met.


Phishing is a cybercrime which targets victims by email, text or phone calls, posing as a legitimate organisation to encourage you to give out your personal information.

Phishing criminals can pose as a variety of false senders, including banks, businesses or even people you ‘know’.

Here are some tips to help you avoid being tricked by phishing:


  • Is the email sent from a legitimate email address?
  • Can you trust the attachment that’s been sent with it?
  • Does the email have good spelling and/or grammar?
  • Does the email greet you specifically or is it more generic (e.g. ‘dear applicant’)?

Texts and calls:

  • Do you know the sender? If not, ignore and delete.
  • Does the text have good spelling and/or grammar?
  • Do not call back to unknown numbers that leave strange messages, as you may call a premium rate number that will charge you a lot of money for contacting.

It’s also important to remember that legitimate banks or companies will never ask for your details via email or phone, or ask you to transfer your money into a ‘safe account’.

One final bit of advice is that you should never get embarrassed by reporting a scam. If you spot a scam or have been scammed yourself, contact ActionFraud on 0300 123 2040 or visit their website at