The online world is full of information and opportunity. We love it for the convenience, connection and communication with our lovely subscribers.

However, it is also an environment which can easily catch us up in fraud and identity theft. This post may be boooor-ing, but may save you considerable inconvenience or worse, financial loss.

So what’s the choice here? Get offline and miss the opportunities that world provides. We don’t think so, we think there is a smarter way which allows you to participate and benefit whilst staying safe. These are the steps we recommend you take to protect yourself. If you’re not confident, but concerned, their are plenty of services and help out there to assist those who did not grow up with the technology and thus may feel blindsided by all this information.

First point; get good virus and privacy protection. We have used different anti-virus products over the years and found some interfere too much and as a consequence slow down the online experience. We have now settled on Trend Micro Maximum Security (not sponsored, it just works for us). Trend Micro is highly configurable so you can set the level of security you want. For example, because we spend a lot of time in the social media world we don’t want to be constantly told that those are unsafe practices, we use other methods to protect ourselves whilst allowing Trend Micro to do what it is good at.

Understand your web browser and how it works. Take the time to understand the settings for your browser, including the privacy settings. Make sure you get some help if you don’t already know how to do this for your choice of browser.

On your web browser look for the symbol next to the URL (web address) of the site you are visiting. If you are on a site which handles any financial transactions, make sure the padlock is present. Be aware too that Google is now adding extra information and is creating pressure for all websites to be https (the “s” is for security) compliant, https symbolising a secure website for your personal data. We currently have scheduled with our developers to move Retiring not Shy! from http to https. We don’t take credit cards or indeed passwords, but we want to be sure we protect your email address to the greatest extent possible.

If you are making online purchases consider using PayPal rather than directly entering your credit card details. Every online store that has your  credit card details takes you one step closer to experiencing credit card fraud. PayPal allows you to store both credit card and bank account details on their system and for each transaction you can choose which payment source you wish to use.

Samantha MacLeod, cyber security expert at ME bank, confirmed that online shoppers should never enter card information directly. “Establish an account with the likes of PayPal. This will enable you to purchase from sites that have been verified and although you are using your credit card, you have purchase protection should anything go wrong,” [Source: New Daily]. If you don’t want to use Paypal, other options include Mastercard Masterpass, Visa Checkout and CommBank Checkout.

Don’t fall for phishing emails. If you receive an email which looks like it’s from your bank or other supplier such as a utility company or ANYWHERE, asking you to update your bank account or credit card details … DON’T!

Make a phone call to your supplier and verify if they do in fact need an update – the answer is almost certainly that the communication didn’t come from them. Phishing emails may also contain a virus so don’t click on the link and do report them to your email host.

Sign up for updates from the ACCC Scamwatch Radar and Hoax-Slayer. If you use Facebook also follow the HoaxSlayer page.

Be aware of the latest scams

And talking about Facebook – make sure you have taken every possible step to protect your privacy.  Find your way to the Settings page and take the time to get all your security measures in place. Again, get help if you don’t understand the implications of your choices. Similarly, with other social media applications such as Instagram. This is definitely a case of a stitch in time saves nine.

Facebook Privacy
Check all your privacy settings in Facebook

Also on Facebook, don’t get sucked in by all those posts suggesting that you are uncaring if you don’t cut and paste a post on cancer or similar. You are not uncaring, you are just protecting your identity. Similarly, those posts that suggest something magic will happen if you like the post and press K (or any other character). There is nothing magic about them, they are just ‘like-farming’. Facebook promotes pages which get lots of likes and this is one way that scammers use to promote their page. Cheekily, might I suggest you save your likes for the Retiring not Shy! Facebook page (and for posts from your friends and family). And don’t for a minute believe that Facebook will ‘donate $1 for every like/share of this post’. Really, there is no mechanism for that to happen. All these ruses are well documented on Hoax-Slayer and I strongly recommend you take their advice. Let your friends and family know too.

Let’s go back to where we started; the online world is a wonderful place to be. Living where we do we would feel very isolated without our online connections via Facebook and other social media. We also do quite a lot of online shopping. Nothing in this post should stop you doing that, we just encourage you to inform yourself and your loved ones and to stay safe and have fun.

What tips and techniques do you use to keep yourself safe online? Have you experienced identity theft or other types of online fraud?