Surfing the Web Securely

3 03 2010

With the increase of Internet use, there comes a wealth of information sharing, entertainment options, e-commerce possibilities and convenience. However, this doesn’

t necessarily constitute more online safety. According to the non-profit group Get Safe Online, more than one in five of its 2009 survey respondents have been victims of online identity fraud.

To protect your privacy and avoid being the next victim, follow these simple steps:

1. Obtain a copy of your credit file

Get a copy of your personal file from a credit reference agency regularly. This will allow you to spot any potential misuse and correct any problems quickly.

2. Take precautions when moving

Photograph: Stock.XCHNG

If your address changes, don’t forget to inform your bank and credit card companies. Mail redirection services may also be helpful to ensure your personal documents don’

t get into the wrong hands.

3. Vary your online passwords

It may seem obvious but avoid using the same password for multiple online accounts, especially banking accounts. Use a combination of letters and numbers in passwords and try to change passwords frequently.

4. Watch out at work

It’

s vital to keep important documents in a secure place, just as you would at home. When a document is no longer needed, shred it. Shredding papers containing personal data is one of the fastest, simplest ways to get rid of private documents and protects you from fraudsters who might look for information in rubbish bins.

5. Be more skeptical when web surfing

Detective Sergeant. Colin Aitkin of Special Fraud Unit, of the Lothian Borders Police, recommends that you, “ask yourself how often you type in your details to some web site, which says it’s secure. But how do we actually know it’s secure?” Before signing up for a web service or making an online transaction, view the site’

s privacy policy to learn who has access to your personal information before, during and after your transaction.

6. Report stolen items immediately

If your credit or debit card is lost or stolen, cancel it right away with your bank or credit card company. If a passport or any identification document is lost or stolen, report it to the relevant organisation that issued it and obtain another.

7. Protect your computer

According to a 2009 report from Get Safe Online, 56% of survey respondents have, or have friends or family members that have been victims of Internet crimes. These crimes range from computer virus attacks and phishing to hacking and identity theft. By installing security software, your computer is less vulnerable to these offenses.

8. Set a password or PIN for mobile devices

To increase security on mobile phones or electronics, set a password or PIN. Only one-third of those surveyed by Get Safe Online said they used this security function on their mobile devices.

Words by Katie Dohse

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