Mobile, internet & identity safety
New technology has created a host of new possibilities for criminals. Fortunately, most tech crimes against ordinary people are easy to prevent.
Read the full module below or use the links on the left to navigate between topics.
Always keep your mobile hidden. If it’s stolen, report it immediately to police and service provider to block usage (even if it is pay-as-you-go).
Don’t report lost phones as stolen. This is a crime.
To increase your chance of getting a stolen phone back, register it with Immobilise, using your IMEI number (15 to 17 digit code usually behind the battery - or key in *#06#).
Don't open suspicious or unsolicited messages. Avoid opening links or downloading games and apps unless you are certain of their source. If you use a smartphone to access the internet, install anti-virus software specifically designed for mobile phones. Ask for advice at the store where you bought your phone.
Be careful with your location settings. If you use your phone to update social media or to upload photos, location data could be uploaded to the internet without you realising. Burglars can use this information to find out where you live and even when you are likely to be out of the house. If you are unsure, ask a member of staff at the shop where you bought your phone to show you the location settings.
Place your children’s computers where you can see them, where possible in communal rooms. Always know what they’re doing and who they’re talking to. Explain to them that not everyone online tells the truth and they should never meet strangers without a known adult present.
Teach your children the Click Code: Zip it (keep personal information private), Block it (block disturbing messages), Flag it (report anything worrying to you).
Make sure you have an up-to-date internet security program installed on your computer which includes anti-virus protection as well as protection against spyware and adware. Keep it updated regularly; download security updates as they become available. Symantec is a reputable internet security company. Make regular backups of your important files. Note that Microsoft never sends e-mails about security updates; these are hoaxes!
Be careful about clicking links and attachments in e-mails. Don't click on links from an unknown sender. Remember that spammers could also gain access to a friend's account, so if you get an unsolicited and/or uncharacteristic e-mail containing a link from a friend, do not click on it but find another way of contacting them (e.g. by telephone or text message) to check that the message is genuine. Similarly, do not click on links or download attachments sent via instant messaging unless you are completely sure of the source.
- Remember that free screensavers and games can be used to infect computers with viruses. Never download them, no matter who has sent them to you.
- Never click on a link in an e-mail from your bank. If you want to use online banking, enter the website address in the address bar yourself, so that you know you are going to the right website and not a fake site designed to replicate the genuine article.
- Leave a website if you feel suspicious - if the site doesn't look or 'feel' right, if there is text that doesn't appear to have any purpose or doesn't tie in with the rest of the site, or if you feel uneasy for any reason. Never download anything you are not sure about.
Hoax-Slayer, Get Safe Online and snopes.com are useful websites where you can read about the latest online scams and hoaxes and avoid falling for them. If you've been scammed, tricked or conned, report it to Action Fraud, the UK's national centre for reporting fraud and internet crime.
- If you use a Bluetooth device (mobile phone or laptop) consider setting your Bluetooth to 'undiscoverable', and turn off the Bluetooth when you are not using it.
- If you use a wireless network (e.g. have a wireless router at home), secure it by making it password-protected. If you do not do this, other people can easily access any information you transmit over the network, including your bank details. The PC World website provides information about how to do this, or you can ask at the store when you buy your router.
- Don't use open wi-fi hotspots to send private information such as bank details.
When buying things online or otherwise entering sensitive data, look for a padlock in the bottom right corner of the screen and a web address beginning with https. This indicates that you are on a site that has its own built-in security.
Scammers can also operate through dating websites. You can read an article with more details about online dating scams here, along with a list of things to watch out for.
Burglars often try to use social media sites (such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Foursquare) to find out personal information about people. If you have any social media profiles make sure you are familiar with the privacy settings and have them set to 'friends only' or the equivalent. Criminals will try to find information about your location. It makes sense to avoid posting your address online, but don't forget they might also be able to work out where you live from photos. And, of course, updates about your holidays tell people that your house is empty! For more information about how burglars use social media, see this infographic.
The Internet Watch Foundation is the UK hotline for reporting criminal online content. Reports are confidential and anonymous. You can make a report via their website.
Identity theft and identity fraud
Your personal information can be stolen and used to obtain credit, goods or services fraudulently. Criminals could set up a bank account in your name, use your credit card or even get a passport in your name.
- Personal information can be taken from your rubbish, mail at old addresses and online. Never give it to anyone you’re unsure of, especially via e-mail or phone.
- Watch out for ‘phishing’: fake e-mails from banks etc.
- Keep anti-virus and firewall software up-to-date on your computer.
- Don’t let anyone take your debit or credit card out of sight when paying in a shop or restaurant.
- Hide your PIN when paying in or withdrawing cash.
- Remember that your bank would never contact you to ask you for your PIN, password or other security information in full.
- Make sure to shred any documents containing your details or confidential information.
- Avoid using your mother's maiden name as a password and try not to write down your password or PIN.
- Don't use the same password for more than one account.
- If you move house, contact your bank, give them your new address and arrange with the Post Office to have your mail redirected.
Make sure you’re getting all your bills; check statements for transactions you don’t recognise. Monitor your credit reports with a credit reference agency. If you are refused credit despite having a good rating, you may be a victim of fraud. If you are expecting a statement, new card or cheque book by post and it does not arrive within the indicated length of time, contact your bank immediately.
If you are a victim of bank or card fraud
Contact your card provider. Most companies promptly replace cards. Freeze accounts, whether with creditors, banks, phone companies or utilities providers. Ask a credit reference agency for advice on clearing up the problem.
Call Credit Phone 0870 060 1414
Equifax Phone 0870 010 0583
Experian Phone 0870 241 6212
Credit Industry Fraud Avoidance Service (CIFAS) lets you file a Protective Registration notice on your credit file, showing potential lenders that you’ve been a victim of identify fraud so they’ll take special care checking further credit applications from you.
Phone: 0870 010 2091
When recovering from identity theft, keep a record of all relevant correspondence and time spent on it in case of legal proceedings. Send letters by registered mail and keep copies.
Remember - if you fall victim to a scam, con, trick or fraud, report it to Action Fraud.
Scams, cons, tricks and fraud - general information
Get Safe Online provides a wealth of information about all manner of online scams, frauds etc. including identity theft and rogue apps. The site includes useful tools such as travel tips and a quiz to test your expertise.
The Metropolitan Police Service runs a series of useful web pages called Fraud Alert which contain information about a wide variety of scams, cons, tricks and fraud and how you can keep yourself safe.