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Advice guide - Protect yourself online

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Many of us use the internet as part of our daily lives, for banking, shopping, socialising and entertainment. Make sure you know how to protect your personal data and keep yourself, your friends and your family safe whilst online.

Protecting your computer

  • Make sure your Wi-Fi connection is secured and encrypted with a password so that others cannot access your internet connection. Do not use default passwords provided out-of-the-box by suppliers.
  • Ensure that your device has anti-virus, malware protection and firewall software installed, which is an extra level of protection that you can add to your network.
  • Keep your computer operating systems and internet browses up-to-date and make sure you download updates regularly, as these updatess can fix bigs and known vulnerabilities.
  • Never reply to spam or unsolicited emails from an unknown or untrusted sender. Make sure you don’t download attachments or click links to web pages within spam emails as these can often contain viruses. Fraudsters can make an email address and email design look like one used by someone you trust
  • When you receive spam emails, delete the email and adjust your mailbox settings to ensure future spam emails from that sender are put into your junk folder.
  • Take regular back-ups of important files to an external hard drive, memory stick or online storage provider. It’s important that the device you back-up to isn’t left connected to your computer as any malware infection could spread to that too.
  • Avoid saving sensitive information to your desktop. If your device is stolen or lost, it could be very easy for someone to access this information.
  • If you suspect that someone has hacked your computer, or is able to access or read what you are doing on your computer, spyware may be uploaded onto your device. Use your anti-virus/spyware tools to run regular checks and consider using a safe computer (such as a friend's or library's) and immediately change the passwords on your key online accounts such as email, social networking, bank/PayPal accounts.

Protecting yourself online

  • Never share your personal data such as bank details, identity details, email address or where you live with anyone that you do not know or can’t verify their details. You can also remove yourself from the open electoral register to further protect your information.
  • Remember people that you meet online might not be who they claim to be. Not everyone is honest and truthful. Do not arrange to meet people that you do not know. If you do agree to meet someone you’ve made contact with online, make sure you tell someone when or where you are going, and take someone with you if possible.
  • Regularly review your privacy settings on social networking sites so that only people you know can see your information and photos. Have nothing public and opt for the most secure option available. Ensure your contact details are secure from anyone viewing this information and that you can’t be located through your contact information being searched on search engines.
  • Be cautious with pop-ups that appear on your computer. Some pop-ups can say that your computer has been ‘locked’ by the police due to inappropriate material being viewed or that you have a virus and request payment or vouchers to resolve the issue. These pop-ups are fraudulent and in no way associated with the police. Don’t trust any unexpected pop-up. If you see anything like this, report it to Action Fraud via the Action Fraud website or by calling 0300 123 2040.

Password advice

  • Regularly change your account passwords and don’t share these.
  • Make sure you use a strong password using a mix of letters, numbers and punctuation. When creating a new password, think random to create a strong password that uses three random words, such as 'SatelliteScallopHope’ you can even mix this up with numbers ‘5atellite5callop4ope’ to strengthen the password even further, if required.
  • Use different passwords for different accounts. Try to use memorable hard to guess passwords, such as a phrase or fact, and update it regularly.
  • If you’ve been subject to a breach, please change all affected passwords.

Shopping online

  • If you shop online, make sure you check that the companies are genuine. If you are not sure, make contact with them to confirm before purchasing, or purchase from an alternative online retailer.
  • When making online purchases make sure the connection is secure by looking for the padlock icon at the top or bottom of the Internet browser. Secure web addresses should also begin with ‘https’.
  • Purchase online using a secure payment method such as Paypal, or credit and debit cards.

Protecting yourself on social media

This information
mainly applies to Facebook but should be applied across other social media sites along with the information in the ‘protecting yourself online’ section:

  • Regularly check Facebook privacy terms of service. Facebook regularly changes its privacy terms of service and
    updates can set some settings back to the default setting.  Make sure you check your profile and privacy settings frequently to be aware of any changes that have taken place.
  • Consider who you are friends with. You should only accept requests from people you know well and trust. Regularly check your friends list and keep it up-to-date.
  • Disable location settings on all relevant apps through your device privacy settings so that you are in control of which apps can access these. Share your location only when the app is in use to avoid over-sharing more than is required.
  • This can prevent location details being included on photos. Don’t display your address, telephone number or email address - If you have one, use privacy settings to remove these from public viewing.
  • Think before commenting on and posting statuses. For example, do you want to advertise the fact that you are going on holiday? Think about your home security and the terms of your home insurance before posting.
  • Monitor your photos and ‘tagging’. Ensure your privacy settings are set so that only your friends can see your photos and ones you’re tagged in. If you don’t want to be tagged in photos, you can remove your ‘tag’. You can also set
    your account to approve tagged photos before they appear in your newsfeed.

Online dating and forums

  • Consider creating a username that doesn't reveal too much about yourself.
  • Avoid being too specific on your profile about where you work, where you live, or your surname, and don't include your phone number.
  • Consider using a new email or lesser used email address when setting up an account, one that if hacked, does not have all your bank details, shopping accounts, contacts etc.
  • When chatting with someone online it's better to talk about where you've been rather than where you're going.
  • Keep the conversation online. Many dating websites and forums will have rules to protect users from people using the site incorrectly.
  • If you decide to meet someone you know online, arrange to meet in a public place and ask a friend to come with you at first. If no one can accompany you, leave details of your plans with a friend and agree to contact them at a certain time.
  • Turn off your geo-location tags on your phone, before sending images to someone else. Some mobile phones and digital cameras automatically attach data to the photo file that identifies where the picture was taken, so turning this function off helps you to avoid a situation where someone you met online might be able to trace your movements.
  • Follow all safety advice given on dating websites.
  • Report any suspicious or offensive behaviour to the online dating site.

Meeting people in person

  • Tell someone where you're going, who you're meeting (name, website arranged through etc) and check in with them before, during and after the date. Agree that if you don't check in as agreed or respond then your friend would call the place where you've met or even go there to check on you.
  • Take a charged phone with credit.
  • Take money for a taxi home/plan a route on public transport.
  • Try and keep the number of a local, licenced mini-cab firm with you.
  • Don't give away personal information on a first date e.g. home address.
  • Don't leave drinks or devices such as phones unattended.
  • Don't share a taxi home with someone you don't know.
  • Carry a personal alarm or use a personal safety app.

Advice for parents and guardians

It is important to make sure that you know how to use your computer and how to look up which websites your child is accessing. Make sure you are able to restrict or block websites and material if necessary to protect your child.

The NSPCC has produced several guides on how to help inform and protect your children online (see below).

Share aware guide

A guide produced to empower parents to keep their children safe online. It includes conversation starters to help parents discuss online safety and advice on what to do if things go wrong online.

For a PDF version of this resource, please click this link


A comprehensive guide for parents on over 50 of the top social networks, apps and games that young people use. It includes key facts for each site, recommended age ratings, and information about safety features.

Visit the NetAware website here.

Talking to your child about staying safe online

Advice and tips on how to have effective conversations with your children about an array of online topics, including cyberbullying, online porn, and sharing images and information. 

Find out more from the NSPCC website.

How to report a problem online

  • If you or your child sees inappropriate content on a website or social networking site, make sure you report it directly to where the content appears online.
  • If the content relates to a crime committed in the UK, report it to the Police on 101. In the case of an emergency always dial 999.
  • Contact your Internet Service Provider.
  • Visit the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) or the Internet Watch Foundation

For additional online safety advice please refer to our Protect Yourself Online guide and the following websites:

  • Visit the Get Safe Online website for free, independent advice on using the internet.
  • Visit Action Fraud website for the UK’s national fraud reporting centre.

Please see our Cyber Security and Fraud advice for further guidance:

Contact information

To speak to our Crime Prevention Unit about protecting your property and reducing your chances of becoming a victim of crime, email crime.prevention@nottinghamshire.pnn.police.uk

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