Keeping yourself safe
The internet can be great fun and can provide entertainment and information but there are a few risks. With a few simple precautions you can avoid these risks.
One of the most important rules in using the internet is:
Be very careful who you give personal information to.
There was a cartoon in which Snoopy said cheerfully, "On the internet, no-one knows you're a dog". Unless you are communicating one-to-one with someone you have already met in Real Life, you have no idea who you are really talking to.
There have been stories such as the teenaged girl who arranged to meet a teenaged boy who turned out to be a middle-aged man, or the person who announced in a newsgroup that they were going on holiday and returned to find that the house had been burgled.
Your name and email address is the most you should give away in public forums. You don't even need to give your name - you can make up a nickname.
You should never give away your address or telephone number (except to reputable companies or organisations, for instance when shopping online). In a public forum such as a chatroom or newsgroup you do not know who else is reading your message.
You should be very careful if you arrange to meet someone you have met on the internet. It might be a good idea to take someone else along with you.
Keeping your children safe
By following a few simple rules adults can keep themselves safe. Children, on the other hand, are more vulnerable. They need adults to help them to stay safe.
It is advisable to keep an eye on your children when they use the internet. It is a good idea for the computer to be in a living room rather than a bedroom. Children are naturally inquisitive and it might only take them a few clicks to find some totally unsuitable material.
You should not let children use chatrooms, newsgroups or messaging unless under supervision. You should make sure they know never to give away their address or phone number or arrange to meet people. If older children want to meet someone they have become friendly with on the internet, go with them.
There are ways to help children avoid unsuitable websites. When they search for information on the internet, make sure they use a filtered search engine such as Google Safe Search or Yahooligans. A selection of child-safe search engines can be found on the Searchbox Children's Page.
You can adjust your web browser to help filter the content it will accept. In Internet Explorer, click Tools - Internet Options - Content - Content Advisor to adjust the levels of content or ban certain websites. Netscape users can adjust settings by clicking Help - NetWatch while they are on-line. AOL users too can adjust their browser settings.
There are filtering programs you can buy, such as Net Nanny or Cybersitter.
These methods of filtering content are a help but will not block all unsuitable websites. The best way to be sure of what your children are seeing is to keep an eye on them while they "surf" or better still to go on the internet with them.
Keeping your money safe
Internet banking and shopping can make life more convenient for you. Unfortunately the internet can also offer opportunities for fraudsters to try to part you from your money.
You need to be on your guard against scams that are out there!
Be very wary of emails that appear to be from a bank or well-known sites such as Facebook, Ebay or Paypal telling you that there has been a problem with your account.
Do not click on the links in such emails. If you hover your mouse over the link you can see where the link really goes. Sometimes, the link has been disguised to make it look at first glance as if it is to the real site, such as www.facebook.com.blah.blah.kinrqhfud.net/njd7urnfy.htm which would really go to a website called kinrqhfud.net not to facebook.com. The email may be designed to make you think you are going to the real site but it may be a bogus site. Hover over this link to see what I mean: http.www.google.co.uk
Emails like this are probably "phishing" scams trying to get you to give out your bank details. Never give out your password or PIN in response to an email communication (or unsolicited phone calls). Real banks will not ask for this. They may ask for things like the second and fifth letter of your password only.
If you really want to log in to your banking site, Facebook, etc, then type in their normal home page address and log in from there.
Ignore emails telling you that you have won a prize in a lottery or competition that you have not entered or asking for help to transfer money out of somewhere like Nigeria. These will be scams to part you with money. In some cases the scammer is trying to get your bank details and passwords. In other cases they will ask you to pay an amount of money to set up an account or for some other plausible reason.
If something sounds too good to be true then it is not true. You are not going to win a competition you have not entered. You are not going to get rich by helping someone you have never heard of who just happens to have contacted you out of the blue. Unfortunately, some people let greed overcome common sense and end up falling for these scams and lost large amounts of money. Be careful and you can keep hold of your hard-earned money!
Lots of people get emails like these. You have not been singled out. Whenever you get any suspicious emails, don't worry about them - just delete them!
(Also see the page about shopping safely online.)