ONLINE SAVVY:

THINGS TO LOOK FOR

Written and publish by Steve Baird


Since lockdown, shops, services, sports and social clubs and many other businesses closed their doors. This resulted in an increase in use of digital channels for shopping, banking, video calls, prescription requests and even doctor appointments.

Below are some simple things that will help to keep you safe online. This is not a complete list. This article has been created for everyday online experiences, it does not include social media nor child online safety.

First, remember that the internet can be a safe place to shop, bank, access service and have fun, so don’t be concerned, just use your common sense.



Emails, Texts and Links

Your bank is unlikely to email or text you with a link to login and update information. Amazon, Netflix, your mobile phone or broadband provider and other responsible providers are unlikely to randomly send a link asking you to update information. These organisations send links if you have completed something or requested it; for example, if you have made a purchase, or a password reset, or requested tracking information, so you should be expecting a link.

Be suspicious of all emails, even those from friends. It’s easy to pretend to be someone by using their email address. Ask yourself, would they email me about this topic and do they normally write in this way (spell words incorrectly, talk in a certain way)? Why is there a link in the email?

For more information see the Under The Surface page.

Secure Web Pages

When using a website look for the locked padlock (sometimes the word “Secure”). If there is no padlock, look at the address, can you see “https” at the beginning - the “s” is important. Secure web pages protect the information sent to and from the website.

Google Chrome with just the padlock icon.


Microsoft Edge with padlock icon and website address including “https”

Shopping and Payments

Some things to look out for:-

  • Check out the retailer before making a purchase. We all know the big names like Amazon, eBay, and high street brands, but there are many reputable online only retailers. Have you seen advertising, does a quick search show any concerns and do they have a returns policy?

  • Paying with a credit card will provide some protection (check with your card provider). Alternatives like Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, Google Pay and PayPal are good as you do not have to enter your card details – often checkout is quicker and easier. These alternatives can offer different levels of protection, so know the differences if you choose to use them.

  • It is not unusual for online retailers to use a service known as a payment gateway. At the checkout you will be sent to the payment gateway to enter payment details and returned to the retailer when done. If you are unsure, check out the payment gateway first.

  • Always check you have a secure connection especially before entering personal or payment details - locked padlock or that important "s".

  • If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is!

Extra considerations;

  • Watch out for subscription services; a repeat monthly fee for products or services. There are obvious ones like Amazon Prime and Netflix, but also less obvious ones like monthly food boxes, and even less obvious ones in games you might have downloaded and tried for free.

  • Check for discount codes as many retailers will issue codes for discounts or free delivery to encourage sales. A simple search might save you a little! Pouch (joinpouch.com) and Honey (joinhoney.com) are two services you can use.

Passwords

Use different passwords for different sites. Use a "strong" (complicated) password. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to remember so many passwords so security specialists recommend password managers. There are some free versions, and paid services with free versions which might be fine. Maybe you can share the cost with family members (not necessarily in the same household) so that a few people have access to a password manager at a small annual cost each.

In general, a password manager stores your passwords safely in a digital vault and automatically (in most cases) fills in the user ID and or password when needed. A master password, fingerprint or even a face is used to “unlock” your vault.

Popular password managers are:- 1Password, BitWarden, Dashlane, Keeper, LastPass, RoboForm (listed alphabetically to avoid a bias). There are many others available and no recommendation is made. If you only use Apple devices then Keychain is built in.

Installing Software

As a general rule, if asked by a stranger you should never install any software, especially if it allows people to see your computer screen or use your computer. You may have someone help you with computer problems – know who they are and watch. No one else should need to install screen sharing software. Companies like Apple and Microsoft already have the tools needed without needing to install anything.

Video Calls

For the most part video chats can be fun with friends and family. Unless you know everyone in front the camera, make sure personal information is not visible on the table or in the background. You can always use a fun background image to add protection. This advice goes for photos you might post on social media.


Quick Check


Want to look a bit deeper into the above topics?
Read more on the
Under The Surface page.

Do check the FAQs


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Page updated: 11 April 2021