Safe internet browsing isn’t hard, but it does take a little bit of vigilance. Follow these easy tips for peace of mind when you visit your favorite websites—or want to visit someplace new!
Use your browser’s safety tools
Most of today’s web browsers are ready-made to do things like block pop-ups, tell websites not to track you, disable unsafe content, stop malicious downloads, and even control which sites can access your webcam and microphone. Here’s how to find and review your safety settings:
- Chrome: Settings > Advanced > Privacy and security
- Edge: Settings > Advanced settings
- Firefox: Options > Privacy & Security
- Safari: Preferences > Security and Preferences > Privacy
Check those URLs!
One way fraudsters try and trick people is to lead them to a fake website that will keep track of any personal information they unwittingly enter. Often these fake websites will have a URL that’s only slightly different from the one you’re used to, like alask4usa.com, rather than alaskausa.org. They’re counting on you not to notice where a link takes you—double checking the URL can be a lifesaver.
Look for the padlock
HTTPS is the way reputable financial institutions and online retailers encrypt information to keep your personal and financial information secure. If you don’t see a padlock icon next the URL of the website you’re visiting, you can’t be sure it’s secure—take your business somewhere else!
Fake site giveaways
Often you can tell a fake site from the way it looks—just plain bad. Are there lots of flashing icons and exclamation points, or so many ads and links you can’t tell what to click? Go somewhere else. Reputable sites aren’t out to confuse you.
Immediately redirected to another site? There’s a good chance it was fake to begin with, or that a legitimate site has been hacked. Either way, sticking around isn’t worth the risk.
Bombarded by popups? Close them down and leave, or maybe even close your entire browser and start fresh.
Listen to your search engine
Many search engines will tell you if you’re about to visit a suspicious website with a message such as "Visiting this site may be harmful to your computer."
Sometime the message is unwarranted, but if you see one it’s best to try another option—especially if it’s a financial institution or shopping website.
What are internet fraudsters after?
Personal information they can sell or use to compromise your finances. This can include, but isn’t limited to:
- Social Security Number (even just the last 4 digits), your tax ID number, or any other unique ID number.
- Username or email address, especially in combination with a password or security question.
- Driver’s license or state identification card number.
- Credit or debit card numbers, along with required security or access codes.
- Passwords, PINs, or other access information for financial accounts.
If you’re asked to provide information you wouldn’t be comfortable sharing with a stranger, follow the tips above to help make sure you’re making a safe decision!
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