The internet is a great place to buy cool stuff, meet different people and find information on almost any topic. However, the internet also has attractions for con artists and criminals. Identity theft, phishing, scamming and other inappropriate behaviour has a real-life negative impact. It is important to know how to use the internet safely.
Identity theft online and through mobiles is a real problem. Using your details, scammers can steal your money and make illegal transactions. They manage to get information such as passwords, bank account and credit card numbers by making friends in chat rooms or by enticing people to hand over personal details through specially designed websites, or pop-up windows, that look like legitimate commercial sites.
The worst cases of identity theft have seen bank accounts get emptied, people denied employment or student loans, or end up with a criminal record resulting from a crime they did not commit! Identity theft is happening more and more in Australia. Young adults are frequently victims of identity theft: in the past 12 months, 28 per cent of the reported identity theft cases happened to 18–29 year olds.
- Don’t ever give your password or login details out.
- Never carry your Tax File Number (TFN) or birth certificate with you. Keep them in a safe place at home.
- Don’t lend your mobile phone, student card, bank card or credit card to anyone.
- Don’t leave your purse, wallet or backpack unattended.
- Don’t use your mother’s maiden name for a password. Choose only definite passwords that mean something to you only and change them often.
- Never respond to emails asking for personal information, even if they appear to be from legitimate websites. If you’re suspicious about your account, call the organisation or open a new browser window and type in the company’s correct website address yourself.
- Do not cut and paste the link from the message into your browser – phishers can make links look as if they go to a genuine organisation, but instead send you to a different site.
- Never send personal or financial information via email.
- Use anti-virus software and a firewall, and keep them up to date.
Phishing is a common type of spam that can lead to the theft of your personal details, such as your bank account numbers or your online banking passwords. These attacks work through ‘spoof’ or fake emails that appear to come from a legitimate website such as a bank, credit card company or ISP – any site that requires users to have a personal identity or account. The email may ask you to reply with your account details in order to ‘update security’ or for some other reason.
How can you protect yourself from scams like these?
- Never respond to emails that ask for personal, banking or financial information.
- Don’t click on banking URL details in emails – instead, type out the URL in your browser address bar.
- Keep a regular check on your accounts and notify the bank if anything bad seems to be happening.
- Check that the website you’re visiting is secure by ensuring it has https:// (‘s’ for security) rather than the usual http://. Also, look for a lock icon in the status bar.
- Never give out your email and your personal details to people you are unfamiliar with.
Who can you report a phishing scam to?
- Your first contact should be the local police department.
- The Australian High Tech Crime Centre normally deals with this type of issue: You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or find info on the web at www.ahtcc.gov.au
- You can anonymously report scammers by contacting Crime Stoppers (Anonymous) 1800 333 000
- You can report them to SCAMwatch at www.scamwatch.gov.au. You can also access SCAMwatch resources through the Cybersafety Help Button. The Help Button is free to download from the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy’s website at www.dbcde.gov.au/helpbutton
- Advise your bank or credit union as well so they can make sure all their customers are protected.
Besides slowing down your computer and subjecting you to annoying pop-ups, worm and virus attacks can do serious harm.
Hackers relentlessly bombard networks for fun and profit with viruses, worms and spyware, probing for weaknesses, turning computers into a battleground.
You can call on weapons of your own for protection:
Install a firewall
The first line of defence, a firewall, is a program that:
- Keeps hackers out. A state-of-the-art firewall ‘hides your machine from hackers’ so viruses can’t enter.
- Keeps important stuff protected. A firewall prevents passwords, account numbers and other sensitive information from being transmitted without your permission.
Some firewalls are available free of charge and take just a few minutes to install. Just do a search for ‘free firewalls’ and see what you find, but be cautious and check that any the software is reputable before you install it. Free firewalls help a little, but the ones you pay for have many more features. These can be email attachment protection, advanced IP blocking, ad blocking or pop-up-window protection, and they provide more automatic functions.
Use antivirus software
Viruses are unauthorised computer codes attached to a program or portions of a computer system that reproduce and spread from one computer to another. They can destroy information stored on the computer and interrupt operations. No matter how vigilant you are, sooner or later a virus will worm its way into your computer. An antivirus program detects and destroys this rogue code.
Software makers often package antivirus programs with their firewall. It’s a natural complement. Firewalls help prevent viruses from entering your system; an antivirus program searches for and destroys any that get through.
Firewalls are an especially useful defence against brand new worms that antivirus programs do not yet recognise. After the virus’s code becomes known, the antivirus software can deal with it. Firewalls are important because there are so many new worms, viruses and variants. There are reputable antivirus software companies. An internet search will produce a list for you to choose from and download. You can also purchase antivirus software from computer shops.
Remember to keep your antivirus software up to date!
Use antispyware software
Spyware is any software program that helps to gather details (such as personal information and browsing habits) about a person or organisation without their knowledge and, worse still, can install keystroke loggers that can steal personal/private information and relay it to a third party.
For the most part, users themselves open the door and invite spyware in by downloading free software indiscriminately or by clicking on pop-ups or dialogue boxes.
Some spyware will take over your browser so that every time you access the web it will go to a specific page rather than your normal home page. Other spyware will merely generate a spate of pop-up ads that can make web surfing a chore. But it’s the keystroke logging spyware that can cause the most financial damage.
An internet search will come up with a list of both free software and software to purchase.
Take advantage of security updates
Your internet service provider (ISP) and your browser periodically issue security updates. Often these are to patch holes that viruses can get through. Make sure you have all the latest fixes.
Reputable software vendors dedicate parts of their websites to patches; if you don’t have or use auto-update mechanisms in your software you can go there.
You can also register for free email notification for security update information at www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/notify.mspx or lists.apple.com
The Stay Smart Online website has a free alert service that informs you of the need to update software, provides information on scams and viruses. This is a free service and is available at www.staysmartonline.gov.au.
Choosing a username
Visiting chat rooms is good fun – however, it’s advisable to choose a user name that doesn’t have sexual or explicit connotations.
Suggestive names can attract people who want to talk about sex or other things that might make you feel uncomfortable.
When chatting online, select a user name that’s not your real name.
Your own name, address, telephone number, mobile number, private email address and picture might mean you attract the wrong sort of attention. The Internet is just another public place, so be careful who you trust online.
Remember that online friends are really strangers. Taking it slow and steady keeps you in control. Think carefully about what information you give out.
If the chat conversation starts to get sexual (like ‘virgin’) you might be straying into dangerous territory. This might make you uncomfortable and chat like this can put you at risk.
If the way the chat is going starts to make you uncomfortable, stop the conversation. You can close down the private conversation or logout of the chat room. If you don’t want to see messages from a particular person or receive private messages from them, you can block them. To do this you right click on the name of the person in the contact list – this should give you a range of options, one of which is block, sometimes called ‘ignore’. If right-clicking doesn’t work, have a look in your preferences for this function, or there may be a block/ignore button in the chat room itself.
1. Keep your private stuff private. Just as for chat rooms – Don’t give out any personal information that might identify you.
2. Mobile phone scams. Free offers sent by text message often turn out to be scams, for example, having to pay to download ring tones each month so all your credit gets eaten up. If you respond to the text message, you can expose yourself to the danger of identity theft or being ripped off. A common scam is to get you to respond to a text message by offering you something for free, but signing you up for a premium-rate service that uses up all your pre-paid credit or gives you a huge bill at the end of the month. By deleting the message immediately, you are stopping these rip-off merchants. The basic rule of thumb is that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
3. Receiving rude, insulting or harassing text messages. First you can ignore them – simply don’t respond. Also it’s a good idea to keep a record of the messages so that you have evidence if you decide to report them. If you continue to receive messages, you should always talk to a trusted adult (teacher or parent) and, if things get really bad, report it to the police. Also let your mobile phone provider know.
4. Blocking text messages. In cases where someone persists in sending you nuisance or harassing text messages, you can contact your mobile phone provider for help in blocking them. Mobile operators should provide their users with the possibility of blocking nuisance or malicious callers. If this is not possible for whatever reason, change your phone number. Again, contact your mobile phone service provider about this – some operators will give you a free replacement SIM card.
5. Keep it real when texting. The way you communicate with someone using text messages has similar manners and expectations as if you were meeting them face-to-face. For example, DON’T WRITE YOUR MESSAGE IN CAPITAL LETTERS BECAUSE THEY’LL ALL THINK YOU’RE SHOUTING AT THEM. Don’t send mean messages, get involved in arguments or encourage others to do so.
Cybersafety Help Button
Download the Cybersafety Help Button so you can talk, report and learn about cyber-bullying. It provides links to Kids Helpline counselling services, links to the safety centres of social networking and online games sites to report abuse and bullying, and access to cybersafety websites for information about cyber-bullying. The Help Button is free to download from the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy’s website at: www.dbcde.gov.au/helpbutton
Do you know who to call if you see something illegal, a scam, inappropriate content or anything that makes you feel uncomfortable? Do you know what to do when you’re feeling exploited or ripped off? Do you know who to contact if you think someone is bullying you or getting bullied? Do you know what to do if you’re feeling abused, vulnerable or sexually harassed?
There are a few different places you can try. All of them are free and you can stay anonymous if you want. If you’re not sure … or you really feel like you need someone to talk to, tell your friends, a teacher or parent.