Recently, someone dear got conned online. And I couldn’t understand it. I couldn’t understand how/why anyone (especially someone so close to me, and knows that I know quite a bit about the online space) would fall for such an obvious con. Then, it dawned on: they don’t necessarily know what I know. And how can they know except they’ve been taught? Being close to me is not enough to protect them from online scams. This is why I have decided to share the knowledge I have.
Below are some of the simple ways to protect yourself online.
Get proper internet security
Need I say more?
Please TURN ON spam protection on your email, as this is your first line of defence. If you have your spam protection ‘on’, then let it do its job. That is to say, if an email finds its way to your spam folder, then it is probably spam. I appreciate that some emails land there by mistake, and if that is the case, confirm the sender before marking it as ‘NOT SPAM’.
Avoid strange toolbars
If I had a dollar for overtime someone came to me, moaning about how slow their computer is, and I opened their web browser and found that they have like 4 toolbars. The usual suspects include: Online Games, ‘Ask’ and ‘Bible Verses’. That is not to say that there is anything wrong with getting a bible verse every day, but there are apps for that.
Toolbars don’t only slow down your computer, they expose you to cyber attacks. If you don’t absolutely need a toolbar, and you cannot verify its source, just leave it be. You probably don’t need it.
Avoid strange games
I have a friend who is obsessed free games (I believe that love began with Zuma’s Revenge). Every chance she gets, she’s downloading something onto her computer. Now, the problem is that a lot of malicious software is hidden inside free games. When you attempt to install them, they usually offer to install something else, along with the game. They use that opportunity to load malware onto your computer.
There is an easy way to get free games; go to the proper source. MSN offers free games, so does HP via WildTangent, and few others. These reputable companies are less likely to want to install something malicious onto your PC. That is not to say you may not end up ‘needing?’ to install a toolbar. So, it’s up to you: is it really worth it?
Avoid strange downloads
It is only fair to move on from strange games to strange downloads, because that is another major way by which people get infected. So, here are a few tips to identify strange downloads:
- if it you’re trying to download a media file (music or video) and the file extension is .exe, .html or .zip, best leave it alone. .exe is an executable file, meaning that it is something that installs onto your computer. There is no reason for Game.Of.Thrones.S6.10 to want to install anything on your computer! If your file extension is not .mp4, .avi, .mp3, .mkv or any other media format, RUN for dear life! Better yet, if you see an extension you’re unfamiliar with, google it before downloading it onto your computer.
- Scan every document that you download before you open it.
- if you use torrents, check the content of the torrent before you download it onto your computer
Try private browsing
If the computer you’re using is not yours, NEVER SAVE YOUR PASSWORD on it. Better yet, use private browsing (or stealth mode) when using a public computer or someone else’s computer. You don’t want to leave any information about you behind.
Use a proper password
Don’t oversimplify your passwords. Passwords ought to be complicated. “12340000” is NOT a password!
Don’t share your password with anyone online
If an app or a platform should ask for your social media or email password, then that thing is most likely a fraud. Rule No.1 of protecting yourself online is: DO NOT SHARE YOUR PASSWORD. However, some of us get excited by the freebies on offer that we’re lured into traps. For example, there are apps that promise you 1000 followers on Instagram (for free), but you need to add your Instagram login details. I hate to break it to you, but those things are FAKE. That is not say that you can’t buy Instagram followers – You Can. Whether or not you should is a debate for another forum – However, most of the real ones will only require you to enter your username. They won’t need your password.
On the other hand, there are social media management tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck. These will require you to enter your password, because, as social media management tools, they need access to your account. Generally, these are quite safe. But you must remain vigilant.
Beware of strangers (and bots)
Your mother knew what she was talking about when she said: “Don’t talk to strangers!”. The truth is: there are a lot of weirdos online, and you could get roped into something that doesn’t concern you, just by entertaining conversations with strange people online. People have been duped, murdered, raped or worse by people they’ve met online. This is not to scare you, but to let you know that the dangers are real. In fact, it’s possible that the person you’re engaging with online is not even a human being, but rather, a chatbot. You could be pouring your heart out to some 1’s and 0’s. How sad is that?
Don’t share your debit card information
This seems obvious, but some people have fallen victim. Only enter your card information on secure, reputable websites (known e-commerce websites, airline websites, and a few others). Any strange platform asking for your 16-digit long code and your 3-digit short code (even your pin?) is suspect.
Change your password
Ideally, you should already be changing your password often (at least, once every 6 months). Then, if you notice any suspicious behaviour, change your password. Change your password if you’ve had any reason to give it out before. Ensure your passwords are secret.
If in doubt, don’t pay. If they insist on you paying, be in doubt
Back to the person that is very dear to me that was conned online; she was conned out of some money by a gentleman on Instagram. He set up what looked like an online store, promoted it on Insta, and offered people the opportunity to place their orders via WhatsApp. Then, when you placed your order, he’d insist on payment before delivery. As soon as you paid, end of story. You were deleted and blocked.
The moral of this story is: If Konga and Jumia allow you to Pay on Delivery, that independent business man/woman should let you do same. If they won’t, gently take your money somewhere else, because who will you hold when they don’t deliver?
When you notice someone behaving strangely on your social media account, either delete them or block them. Simple. Don’t attempt to engage them or negotiate with them. Block them and report them (if you can).
Scan your machine for malware
If you have proper internet security, it should already come with malware protection. It should have a schedule for scanning your system for malware, viruses, et al. However, if you notice something is amiss, perform a full system scan. Delete any strange, unrecognisable programs, and anything else that may have downloaded itself onto your machine.
Cancel your card
Have you put up your card details on a questionable website? Call the bank and cancel your card immediately!
Multi-level marketing and Ponzi schemes (like Twinkas and MMM) have come and turn online safety on its head. Where you normally wouldn’t share personal information like your phone number and banking details with strangers, these platforms require you to do so. Also, you’re required to pay money into accounts of people you’ve never seen or met.
Normally, this is a hazard. However, the promise of 30% (or sometimes 100%) ROI is all the motivation one needs. To further the argument, we’ve all met someone who has gotten paid repeatedly from these platforms, and this just blinds us to the risks. Some people have lost money too, so hey – you win some, you lose some. That said, I’m not here to tell you whether or not to participate. If you get de mind, carry go.
All said and done, we just need to be vigilant online. There are many ways to secure yourself online that have not been mentioned here, so if you know of a few you’d like to share, drop us a line in the comment section. If there’s something you don’t agree with, drop us a line too. Looking forward to hearing from you all.
Until next time….