Even if you are a seasoned internet user, making sure you know how to protect yourself online is important. There are many clever scams out there that Canadians fall victim to every day. According to a 2013 research study by Norton, it is estimated that 68 per cent of all Canadian adult internet users have experienced cybercrime at some point in their life.
The following is a list of 5 ways to stay safe online:
- Do not trust emails from unknown senders: Think twice before sharing any personal information and never give away credit card or banking information. This may seem like an obvious warning, but Statistics Canada found that online fraud accounted for 54 per cent of all cybercrimes reported to police. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you are receiving an email saying you have won money (even though you never entered a contest/draw), or if you are being notified of a sudden large inheritance – someone is attempting to scam you. Delete these emails and block the sender immediately. A list of common email scams can be found here. Remember, some scams are less glaringly obvious than others.
- Watch out for phishing scams: In 2014 there were more than 20,000 victims of identity fraud who collectively lost nearly $10.5 million dollars. Phishing scams are used to steal banking and personal information for this purpose. These scams typically include emails that lead you to a fake website where you are asked to enter personal information. They appear as banks or other legitimate looking companies at first glance. Remember, no bank or online company should be asking you to verify your personal information. If they need something from you, they will call you.
- Use strong passwords: A recent survey found that only 38 per cent of people use a secure password. Passwords should never be anything too familiar. For example, do not use your name, address, birth dates in your family or names of other family members. This type of information can be found out quite easily. The best way to create a strong password is to use a random assortment of lower and upper case letters and numbers. These types of passwords are nearly impossible for someone to guess. To keep on the safe side, set a reminder for yourself to change your passwords every three months.
- Be safe when buying and selling online: Websites such as Kijiji and Craigslist are being used every day for buying and selling anything from toaster ovens to used cars. These websites are useful and convenient but they also attract scammers. Whether you are buying or selling, it is always best to meet in a neutral and public location – do not invite strangers to your home. When selling, make sure you are being paid in cash. This allows you to avoid bounced cheques or transactional hiccups. Never buy anything from somebody who claims they are “out of the country” and need you to do a money transfer or send a MoneyGram. You can see a list of how to spot scams on Kijiji here.
- Do not share your vacation schedule online: Although it may be tempting to share your latest travel plans on Facebook, doing so can disclose unnecessary information to a lot of people. Broadcasting your vacation schedule allows thieves to find out when no one will be at your home. The less people that know about your comings and goings, the safer you and your home are. Wait until you get back to share information and photos about your trip.
Stay safe online by staying in the know about scammers and phishers. I hope you find these tips helpful; please feel free to share them with your friends.
Wishing you a great, and safe, day!