How to keep safe online this festive season
Whether we’re shopping or socialising, playing games or watching a movie, dating or enjoying a few days away, the internet normally plays some part in our festive season these days.
But fraudsters also love this time of year, taking advantage of the fact that we’re busy and sometimes distracted. Some are even using AI to make their work easier and more convincing. Which is why it’s essential that we take a few easy precautions to protect ourselves, our families, finances and devices against online harms.
The 12 tips of Christmas
Spot the signs of fake websites, insecure payment pages and counterfeit goods. Never pay someone you don’t know by bank transfer if you haven’t seen the goods in person. Before you visit a website, check if it’s likely to be legitimate or fraudulent at www.getsafeonline.org/checkawebsite
Beware of texts claiming to be from a parcel firm telling you there’s a ‘delivery fee’. If in any doubt, always call the courier or retailer on the number you know to be correct to check if the message is authentic or not.
Protect all new or second-hand internet-connected phones, tablets and computers with a reputable security app/software. Add a new and unique PIN or passcode as soon as you power up. Ensure all documents and photos are backed up automatically so you don’t lose them. Check privacy and location settings for new and existing devices.
Always set up new and unique passwords on internet-connected devices like voice assistants, appliances, cameras, kids’ toys and fitness watches, as soon as they’re switched on. Using the factory-set default passwords could result in them being hacked. And remember that voice assistants and smart speakers are designed to pick up what you’re saying. Find more information about setting up connected devices.
Download software, app and operating system updates on all your devices as soon as you get notified. Better still, set them to update automatically. Otherwise, they could get infected by malware, leading to fraud, identity theft or snooping.
Do a factory reset to erase your data if you’re selling or gifting a computer, mobile device or console. Find out how from the manufacturer’s website. If you’ve bought or been given a used device, remove the previous owner’s settings and data if this hasn’t already been done.
Download new apps only from official sources such as App Store, Google Play or Microsoft Store. Downloading them from elsewhere could result in fraud or identity theft.
Out and about
Don’t use Wi-Fi hotspots in cafés, pubs, hotels, on public transport and other public places for anything confidential as they could be either insecure or fraudulent.
Avoid things like pirated games, griefing and in-game overspending. Keep track of how much time you’re spending online. Don’t overshare private information on chats. Keep an eye on your kids’ gaming by checking games’ PEGI age limits and talking with them about who they’re or playing and chatting with.
Make sure what you share online is respectful and doesn’t reveal confidential, sensitive or embarrassing information about yourself or others, including family members and friends. If you’re away from home, keep it to yourself, as burglars keep an eye on social media too.
Safeguarding your children
Talk to your children about being safe and responsible online, including what they share, who they’re talking to and the type of content they access, including in apps and games. Consider downloading a reputable parental control app and using ISP content filters. Make sure they aren’t running up bills in games and other apps.
Make sure those Christmas calls are safe and secure by using a service that needs a strong password, and don’t share the call invitation or details outside the person or group on the call.
For more information on how to stay safe online this festive season, visit www.getsafeonline.org
If you think you’ve been a victim of a scam,report it to Action Fraud, on 0300 123 20 40 or at www.actionfraud.police.uk