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8 Security Tips to Protect Yourself and Your Money Online

How to protect yourself and your money online
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An online study reveals a troubling truth: 90% of internet users lack the knowledge to fully protect themselves online. Given that web usage now plays a key role in our everyday lives, both personal and professional, this is incredibly concerning.

Without proper digital safety practices, you could be leaving yourself vulnerable to cyberattacks or money scams that could steal your private information, like your address or even your banking details. In this guide, we will discuss the essential tools and practices to stay safe online and protect your hard-earned money from scams and fraud.

How to protect yourself and your money online: 8 essential security tips

1. Use strong passwords

While it might seem like a no-brainer, creating secure passwords remains one of the most effective ways to protect yourself online. Strong passwords act as a shield, preventing hackers from accessing your sensitive data, especially financial information. Despite this, a recent study found that 80% of security breaches are the product of poor passwords. To avoid this, you should be sure to: 

  • Use different passwords for all of your accounts, as opposed to using the same password over and over again.
  • Do not use passwords that are immediately obvious, such as ‘password,’ ‘1234’, or your birthdate. 
  • Include a variety of numbers, letters, and symbols in your password.

If juggling multiple strong, unique passwords feel like a headache, consider using a password manager. These tools generate and securely store these complex passwords for you, eliminating the hassle and boosting your security. 

2. Use Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

Strong passwords are a must, but for ultimate security, consider enabling two-factor authentication (2FA) on your most important accounts. 2FA adds an extra step to the login process – a code from your phone – making it much harder for hackers to gain access, even if they have your password. This applies not just to financial accounts, but also to email, social media, and other accounts with sensitive information. Many platforms offer 2FA options in their security settings.

3. Use ad blockers

Ad blockers can be a powerful tool for online security. These programs automatically filter out malicious advertisements that could be gateways to malware or scams. Clicking on such an ad could infect your device with malware designed to steal your personal information or even hijack your financial accounts. Ad blockers also limit online tracking, making it harder for scammers to target you with personalised phishing attacks or build profiles for financial fraud. Look into ad blockers for your browser, such as an adblocker for SafariBrowsers like Brave also offer built-in ad blocking functionality, providing an extra layer of protection without needing additional software.

4. Guard your personal details

In today’s digital world, it’s easy to overshare. But remember, not everything belongs online! Here’s how to be mindful of the information you reveal:

  • Be wary of unsolicited requests: Don’t share personal details like your address, social security number, or bank account information over email, text message, or unsolicited calls. Legitimate companies won’t pressure you for this information.
  • Think before you post: Social media can be a fun way to connect, but avoid oversharing personal details like your birthday, home address, or even your holiday plans – especially if your account is public. This information could be used by scammers to target you with personalised attacks.

5. Use protected payment methods

When it comes to online transactions, using secure payment methods is crucial for safeguarding your hard-earned money. Here’s how to make your purchases safer:

  • Credit cards offer extra protection: Compared to debit cards, credit cards often provide additional purchase protection. In case of unauthorised charges or fraudulent activity, you may be liable for less (or nothing at all) with a credit card, depending on your card issuer’s policies.
  • Look for verified payment gateways: Before entering your payment details, ensure you’re on a secure checkout page. Look for the padlock symbol and “https” in the address bar, indicating a secure connection. Reputable online merchants will only use verified payment gateways for transactions.
  • Consider digital wallets: Digital wallets like Apple Pay or Google Pay offer an extra layer of security by not transmitting your actual credit card information to the merchant. Instead, they use a unique token, making it harder for hackers to steal your financial data in case of a breach.
  • Be cautious with third-party payment processors: While some online stores offer third-party payment processors, proceed with caution. Research the processor’s reputation and ensure they have strong security measures in place before using them.

6. Keep your software up to date

Think of outdated software like a house with a broken lock. Hackers love exploiting these weaknesses. Updating your software (including operating system, browser and security software) regularly patches these vulnerabilities, making it much harder for them to steal your information or money. Updates also often improve performance and fix bugs, keeping your devices running smoothly.

Enable automatic updates whenever possible, or schedule regular checks to stay on top of things. A little vigilance goes a long way in protecting your finances online.

7. Be suspicious of all ‘too good to be true’ offers

The internet can be a treasure trove, but beware the glittering promises that seem too good to be true. Unbelievably low prices or guaranteed high returns on investments are classic scammer bait. According to Barclays, investment scams accounted for a third of all money customers lost to scammers in 2023.

For investments, research thoroughly – vague promises, pressure tactics, or unrealistic guarantees are all red flags. Similarly, with online shopping, deep discounts are great, but be wary of unbelievably low prices, especially for high-demand items. Research typical costs and be suspicious of extreme bargains. 

Finally, don’t click on links or attachments in suspicious emails or messages advertising these “golden goose” deals. A little healthy skepticism goes a long way in protecting your finances online.

Related: How to avoid the most common investing mistakes

8. Report suspicious activity

Staying silent in the face of potential online threats can leave you and others vulnerable. If you encounter something suspicious online – or become a victim – report it! Here’s how:

  • Report to the platform: Most online platforms have mechanisms for users to report suspicious activity, such as phishing emails, fake profiles, or fraudulent listings. Utilise these reporting tools to bring suspicious activity to the platform’s attention.
  • Report to authorities: Depending on the severity of the situation, consider reporting it to the authorities. Many countries have dedicated cybercrime reporting channels where you can report online scams, fraud attempts, or malware threats. In the UK, for example, you can report online fraud and cybercrime to Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting center. You can report online at https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/

Conclusion

Armed with these essential tips, you’ve built a powerful shield to protect yourself online from hacks, money scams, and fraud. Remember, healthy skepticism is key. Don’t be afraid to question unbelievable offers and always report suspicious activity. If you suspect you’ve been targeted, report the scam to the relevant authorities. By wielding knowledge and adopting these security practices, you can confidently conquer the digital world, keeping your finances and information safe.

Protect yourself and your money online

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