- Look for the s. If the website name in your browser starts with https, that’s a good sign. The s in https means the site has an SSL certificate, and sensitive information won’t be vulnerable as it travels from site to server. There may still be problems with an https site, but they’re generally more reliable than the simple http ones.
- Look out for the obvious signs. Beware popups or ads that make crazy claims, lead with celebrity scandals, or contain spelling or grammar errors. A professional look doesn’t guarantee a site’s safety, but definitely stay away from one that raises doubts.
- Keep your antivirus program up to date. If you’re connecting to the internet, you should have at least the basic level of protection of a free antivirus defense.
- Check out a site before you click. Several sites can tell you if another site has hosted malware recently. Type the URL into a site like hpHosts, Norton Safe Web, or Unmask Parasites – and if the results show danger, don’t go further. Google Safe Browsing allows you to type http://google.com/safebrowsing/diagnostic?site= and then the website address into the browser window to get immediate results.
- Never click on popups or links to get to sensitive accounts. Scammers may try to scare you with a popup that says your bank account is frozen, or that there are fraudulent charges on your credit card – and then request your username, password, or other important information to start fixing the problem. Of course, they can cause havoc once they have your info. Instead, always type the URL directly into the address field to access financial accounts, shopping sites, or other places you’ll be giving personal info.
- Think before acting when someone you don’t know cries “Emergency!” Cyber criminals routinely make their pitches sound especially urgent, so their victims don’t have time to think about them. If a financial institution, utility, business, or government agency claims you need to handle an urgent matter online – and wants your personal information to do it – don’t fall for it. Instead, pause for a moment. Then call them directly, or log into your account by typing in the URL yourself.
- Use trusted networks. Don’t pass sensitive information over open Wi-Fi networks, like those at stores or coffeeshops. Save your shopping, bill paying, and checking on investments till you get to a trusted private network. If you have to take care of those tasks while you’re out, disconnect from the risky public network and set up a private hotspot with your phone.
- Keep software updated. When your computer or phone notifies you of software updates, perform them as soon as you can. Many people delay them, then forget…which can leave vulnerabilities for malware to exploit.
- Share carefully on social media. Social media can be great for staying in touch with friends and loved ones, but criminals also use it – to learn about you. Adjust your privacy settings so you don’t display your address, phone number, birthday, and other data. Be careful what you post, too. Every time you mention your pet, high school, or first car, you may be giving away the answer to a security question. And your vacation news? Post it after you get back – so you don’t tip off burglars that your home is empty while you’re away.
We care about you – and want to help you keep your personal information safe. The more crooks know about you, the easier they can crack into your accounts, take out credit cards in your name, or cause other problems.
These tips will help protect you from internet scams and keep your personal information from people who want to misuse it.
While you’re making sure you surf the web safely – take a minute to look at some of the other scams out there. From fake charities to made-up family member hospitalizations to phony credit alerts and more, crooks are working overtime to dream up ways to learn your information. Stay informed – and keep your information secure.