Internet safety is just as important for adults as it is for children and teens. From privacy concerns to identity theft and cyberstalking, there are plenty of hazards on the web. Fortunately, a few smart moves and a dose of awareness will go a long way toward protecting you on the Internet.
Keep Your Personal Information Private
The Internet is full of opportunities to share personal information, but this can make you vulnerable to indentity theft, cyberstalking, and other issues. According to Public Opinion on Privacy, 89% of people are concerned about the level of personal information on the Internet. The following tips can help you stay safe.
Consider What You Share in Profiles
On social networking sites, it's common to include a lot of information on your profile. From your employer to your religious views, think twice before you put it out on the web. Make sure the information you share is suitable for all eyes.
Think About Photos Before Sharing
Sharing photos can be a great way to connect with friends and family, but they can also make you vulnerable. Before sharing a picture, take a few minutes to examine the background for details. Be sure you fuzz out our crop photos that show your house address, your car license plate, and other information people could use to find you.
Watch Out for Phishing
Phishing is a common trick used by identity thieves to gain your personal information. This crime involves sending e-mails or creating sites that appear to be from a legitimate company and asking you to confirm personal information such as bank account numbers, passwords, birth dates, or addresses. PayPal and eBay are two of the most common targets for phishing scams. Before adding any personal information, contact the supposed site directly to see if they have been trying to contact you. Most reputable sites will not contact you in this way.
Keep an Eye on Accounts
If you use a credit card for online shopping, be sure to keep a close eye on the account activity. If you notice purchases that you haven't made, contact your card company immediately.
Be Aware of Your Internet Presence
Everything you do on the Internet is apparent to other users, and you should be aware of what they are seeing. In cases of cyberstalking and identity theft, someone could use your name and information to create damaging profiles or post public messages. Take a moment to "Google" yourself and see what others are seeing about you. This will keep you aware of any unauthorized use of your name, pictures, or personal information.
Report Identity Theft
When they think of Internet safety, adults most often consider identity theft a top priority. Identity thieves can use the information they find online to drain your bank account and ruin your credit rating. In some cases, the damage caused by identity theft may even harm your future employment prospects-especially if you work in an industry that regularly does credit checks for all job applicants. If you notice that someone else is using your name, credit cards, or other personal information, contact the Federal Trade Commission right away. You can prosecute the person to clear your name and avoid any further issues.
Keep Your Accounts Secure
In addition to protecting your privacy, it's very important to keep your Internet accounts secure. Keep these tips in mind.
Choose a Great Password
Although it may be tempting to choose a password that's easy to remember, such as your child's name, your birth date, or your favorite sports team, these kinds of passwords leave you open to identity theft and fraud. According to Consumer Reports, 32% of adults used passwords based on simple personal information. Instead, it's better to create a password that meets the following criteria:
- Eight or more characters
- A number, as well as letters
- A special character, like %,*,@, or ?
- Upper and lowercase letters
- No personal information
Don't Reuse Passwords
In order to remember your passwords, you may reuse the same password for multiple accounts. Avoid this if at all possible, since it makes multiple accounts vulnerable if your password is discovered.
Keep Your Passwords in a Safe Spot
Because you're not reusing passwords, it can be hard to remember all of them. Many people keep lists or files with the login information for their various online accounts. The safest place to store this list is on an external flash drive that you keep with you.
Watch Out for Keyloggers and Malware
Certain computer programs, called keyloggers, can keep track of the keys you type and transmit this information to people who might want to steal your accounts. Be sure you have adequate security programs on your computer and that you are extremely careful when entering password information on public computers.
Stay Vigilant at All Times
A lapse in attention can lead you to automatically click on a link or open an email attachment that may put your computer or your information at risk. Staying vigilant can help you stay safe.
Think Before Opening Email Attachments
Don't open email attachments from people you don't know. These attachments may contain viruses or other malware. Additionally, think twice before you open an attachment from someone you do know. It's common for email accounts to get hacked, and the hackers may send messages and attachments to all of the people in the address book. If it doesn't sound like something your friend might send you, email him or her separately to find out if it's legit.
Consider the Legitimacy of Free Programs
Avoid downloading free software online unless you're certain it's from a reputable company. Many free programs are merely a device for delivering adware and spyware.
Keep Your Virus Software Up to Date
Install virus protection software and a firewall. Check for updates regularly.
Watch for Fraud
The global nature of the Internet has brought new life to scams. Some of the most common forms of Internet fraud include the following:
- Online auctions site postings that feature non-existent or falsely represented merchandise
- Nigerian money offers promising large sums of cash in exchange for assistance with bank account transfers
- Financial scams targeting consumers with poor credit who are tricked into paying upfront fees in hopes of receiving credit cards or personal loans
- Phony sweepstakes offers asking for payment to claim a prize that doesn't really exist
To learn how to protect yourself from online fraud, visit the Internet National Fraud Information Center.
Be on the Lookout for Sexual Predators
If you're a single woman who likes to use online dating sites, be on the lookout for potential sexual predators. It's not always easy to tell if a potential date is merely lying about his appearance or trying to conceal a criminal past. If you do decide to arrange a personal meeting with someone you met online, always request that your first date be in a restaurant or similar public place. It's also a good idea to tell a friend where you're going and make sure someone is available to check up on you later in the evening.
Keep Your Experience Enjoyable and Safe
If you're aware of the hazards and use the Internet responsibly, it can be a wonderful tool for meeting people, sharing experiences, shopping, and gathering information. Keep these tips in mind to ensure your Internet experience is both enjoyable and safe.