Health & Wellness

10 Tips that may Help Keep You Safe Online

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You want to feel secure in your physical space, right? The same goes for cyberspace.

Just as IRL (or “in real life,” as the kids say), it’s important to take precautions and be aware that threats may exist.

Here are some tips to help you protect yourself in the online world:

1. Protect your computer. Install antivirus software, firewall software and anti-spyware on your computer and make sure the programs are all up to date. Stay current on all software updates, as well. If you’re concerned about whether your computer is properly protected, make an appointment with a computer professional or sign up for a class at your local library or community center.

2. Run a modern web browser. If you have an older computer and have never updated your browser, consider downloading a newer browser. A modern browser is free to download, and may help protect you from potential threats.  

3. Don’t share personal information over email. If you receive an email asking for your credit card number, social security number, bank account information, password or other info, do not respond.

4. Create a unique password. Use a complex password that is at least eight characters long and is a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, symbols and numbers. Avoid using passwords that use your birthday, name, a pet’s name, anniversary or other combination that someone might be able to find online. Rotate your passwords so you aren’t using the same one on multiple sites.

5. Don’t overshare on social media. Be careful about sharing too much information, such as your home address, phone number, birthday, vacation dates and other information. Strangers can find this information and may use it to their own advantage.

6. Don’t trust someone you’ve never met. Your parents used to tell you “don’t talk to strangers.” Bring that same social skepticism to the cyber world. Online scams may ask for money, account information, address verification, password verification and more. This is called “phishing.” Never give information (or money) in response, even if the email seems to come from a legitimate source or someone you know. If the email seems to come from a source such as your bank, contact your bank by a phone number published on their official website. Don’t respond directly to the email or to a phone number listed in the email.

7. Be careful where you click. Don’t download software and attachments or click on links that come from people or sites you don’t know. Some viruses may spread this way.

8. Be cautious when buying medications online. Don’t buy over-the-counter medications or prescriptions from unfamiliar companies online. The best way to avoid purchasing counterfeit medicine is to be well informed and selective about where you purchase your medications. If you think you’ve purchased a counterfeit medicine, you can contact the FDA’s Division of Drug Information at [email protected] or 888-463-6332.

9. Be vigilant about your credit card statements and credit report. If someone has stolen your credit card or any aspect of your identity, alert the proper authorities and close all accounts. When shopping online, use a credit card rather than a debit card. Credit card companies may be quicker to catch fraudulent charges and reimburse you. 

10. Have your guard up on dating websites. Just as in real life, it’s possible that you may interact with a person online who isn't being truthful. Use precautions when getting to know someone online. Limit what personal information you share and never give them money or share account information. Technology and the Internet open up a whole world of opportunities for people of all ages. As with all aspects of life, it’s important to educate yourself, use common sense and trust your instincts along the way. 

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