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Be Web Aware - be VERY aware!

How you use your device and access online information, whether through a web browser or email, is of the utmost importance. Learning what is trustworthy and what isn't, what to do and what not to do and what the tell-tale signs are of a bad website or scam email is so important it's hard to emphasise it enough. Keeping your data safe and backing it up regularly is extremely important, yet is something that many people rarely do - if at all!
The internet is, generally speaking, fairly safe to use, providing you follow certain rules and have adequate protection on your device. Having said that, it can be difficult to tell if a site you are on is safe or not, so you have to take care on any site that you visit. Be careful which links you click on and be extremely careful about downloading anything.
The most important factor in staying safe on the web is knowing
to use the tools that you have and knowing what you can do safely and, more pertinently, what you most definitely should
do when using a website, App, or accessing email - or just working 'off-line' - though you'll most likely still be 'connected'! There are many simple rules that will help you keep safe, which you will find listed below. Some may seem a bit over the top, but even if you think you are safe doing something, you might not be - and it might only take one wrong click or tap to do a
of damage!
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When I say 'tools', I mean your email client (if you use one) and anything else you use when connected to the internet (i.e., ANY time you have a Broadband, Wi-Fi, or Data connection). It's very important to remember that you are online whenever you have an internet connection - not just when browsing or accessing mail, especially if you get a pop-up notice telling you that your internet security software (or other program) has an update available, has found a problem on your device, or that your device has been 'infected' with a virus or 'locked' and that you need to contact someone or pay to get it unlocked - remember, your
is on the web, even if
are not. How you respond is very important!
Of course, it
be a perfectly genuine notice. But then again, it might
, so be careful how you deal with it. If you've only just opened the program that's associated with that notice, then it's probably safe to assume that it is a genuine notice - but, it's still safest to close the pop-up, start the program yourself, and run the update or check for notices from
. If you haven't just opened the program, don't just click on the notice, as this will let whatever software is behind it run - which could be a genuine update, or maybe dangerous or that
actually infect your device and possibly make it unusable, or maybe steal your personal information.
To close the notice, you
simply use the 'X' in the corner of the pop-up window, or 'Cancel', or other 'Exit/Close' button, whatever is available. But, if you want to be extra safe,
close the pop-up this way, as the 'X' or 'Close/Cancel' buttons themselves could actually trigger the malware - if that is what it is! After all, why would a malware program give you a 'Close' or 'Cancel' button - they wold most likely be a
'X' or 'close' button!
The safest way (or if there is no 'Close', 'Cancel' or 'X' anyway), is to press your buttons and select Task Manager ('Activity Monitor' application on a Mac) from the next screen. From there, find the pop-up program update (or whatever the notification says needs updating or is causing a problem) in your list of running programs (should be in the top section), going by whatever Company/Software name is shown in the pop-up. Select it, then click on 'End Task' in the bottom right corner, or from the right-click (mouse/touchpad) menu. For a Mac, hold down the 'Control' button and use the mouse to click on the line/item, then select to End the task.
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Then, close Task Manager and check that the pop-up has gone. If not, go back to Task Manager and look for it again and close it down. Make sure it has gone before proceding with anything else, as there may be more than one occurence, or it may re-start itself automatically. To find and run the genuine update or genuine message, open the program itself from your usual start menu or desktop icon that you always use. Only
, should you take notice of any update or other notification and take the appropriate action. Even better, click on the menu item which says 'Check for Updates' and go from there, or go direct to their website and download the latest version/update from there and install that!
These are the sorts of things that can easily catch people out, even those who usually know better, because they are things that grab your attention and you are prompted to make a quick decision - and most people will probably assume that if it's from a program that they have installed, then it is going to be genuine and safe. Most times, it will be, but not necessarily always and you only need to click on a dodgy link once to do immeasurable damage, so it is better to play safe and only respond to these sorts of notices when you have just opened up the program. Better still, never click on them and check within the program or go online for your updates.
The same basic rule applies to email; never respond in haste! Firstly, only open emails from people, organisations, or companies you know or are expecting, or regularly get email from, and, if it requests anything out of the usual, or if it requests money (even if you are expecting it!), double check that the email is actually from the person or company that it says it is.
request for money, or changes to how/where money should be paid, no matter who from, should be double-checked by contacting the person or company directly, preferably by phone;
to whoever is asking you to pay them before doing anything!!
The exact same rules apply to text or other messages (WhatsApp/Signal/Skype/Messenger, etc.), or on social media;
if it's from someone you would normally totally trust, like your son, daughter, parent etc. -
this is exactly
what makes a scam more believeable, more likely to
a scam and more likely to catch you out -
to them to check
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If, instead of asking for money, an email or message from somoneone you know - especially close friends or relatives - simply contains a link, or a message that says 'Hi', 'Thought this would interest you', or some other similar short message and then a link, it is almost certainly a SCAM and the 'from' email address will have been
With emails, always check that they are from who they claim to be from. To do this, check that the both the name and 'sent from' (address) part of the email address (the bit after the '@') is the same as the website or company it is supposedly from (gmail,amazon, etc), or if from an individual, that their address is the same as their usual one. Watch out for added or wrong letters, such as, instead of, or, amezon,com, etc.. If there is an additional period ('.' (full stop)) in the address and an extra name or letters before that, that simply means that it is from a of the main website, such as, or, etc. This is normally ok, but be careful that you have read it correctly!
with most online (webmail) email messages and you can simply point your cursor to the incoming email address (before opening it), right click (or press and hold for a touch screen) and select 'properties' from the small pop-up screen. This will show the address it was sent from, as well as a lot more information. for anyone to be able to send an email, you need to own - or have email access to - the website with that address, even if there is no actual website of that address that you can visit (it might not physically exist, or might be a blank page). This means that if you owned a website called '', then your emails would be from '(name)' , using your name instead of (name) and whatever ending you originally chose for your website name (i.e.,
The user is the first part (name); the part before the '@'. The 'address' is the second part; the bit after the '@'. This is the same as for a normal postal address - you need a name and an address! Even after checking the 'from' address, be extra careful about opening emails with attachments (usually shown by a paperclip next to the message). Only open messages with an attachment once you have verified that is is from who it says it's from and if you are satisfied that they are a safe source - i.e., someone you are already dealing with, or have given permission to email you!
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Once you open an email, you then need to be very wary of reading and interpreting what is says. If, for instance, it purports to be from a bank, or a website that you use, be very wary of any message that tells you that you need to take immediate action, or says that something bad is going to happen and thereby is trying to get you to take immediate action - such as clicking on a link in the message! The more upsetting or disturbing the message is, or the more immediate it tells you that you need to take action, the more it is to be a scan and the more you should be wary of it. For instance, if it says you bank account, Paypal account or Ebay account etc. has been 'suspended' or 'compromised', or that someone is claiming a refund or reporting you for doing something wrong, or any similar disturbing message, do NOT
it and do
click on the link! In fact, very rarely should you click on links in emails.
About the only exception to this is when you have set up alerts for items being listed (on ebay, gumtree, etc.), This is usually OK, as long as you do not need to log in to view the items. If you do, close the email and go to the website directly to log in. Only then should you use the links in the email, of look for any messages, problems etc that have been reported. Usually, there will be none and this will prove that the email was a fake! If it was just a link to a new item on your favourite ad or auction site, you should now be able to see it and use it by clicking on the email link - if it was genuine, as you are now logged in. If you're asked to log in again, then you either have a problem with cookies, or it is most likely a fake link, so block, delete and ignor it.
However, should you by accident click on a link in a fake/scam email, you will most likely be taken to a fake website that looks and behaves almost exactly like the real thing. If you enter your username and password into one of these sites, then you will have just given your login details to some scumbag! If you do this you will quite likely realise What you have just done, as it's usually a dead giveaway; once you have entered your details, you will clearly
be logged into the genuine website and will either get a blank page, a login 'error', some other fake page, or possibly a 'failed login' error notice.
If this is the case, this makes it fairly easy to determine that it's fake, as your usual information and details will not be available. However, don't rely on this, as fake sites are getting more and more elaborate and convincing all the time. So, if you you do login from an email/text link and are not sure if it's fake or not, check by looking for your account information. If it's not there or incorrect, or there are other signs of it being fake, immediately delete your recent close your browser, then open it again and go to the genuine site (via a bookmark/favourite link, or by typing the address directly into your browser, or doing a search and finding the genuine site).
Then, log in and quickly change your password for something very different, then log out and make sure you can log back in with your new password. Also check that nothing has been changed in your account by anyone else - especially your email address or phone number - or that there are any purchases shown that you have not made! Lastly, logout, then check back again in at least once more, about 15-30 minutes later. If you can't log in to the genuine site, then you will need to phone them immediately and tell them that your account has been compromised.
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Internet Etiquet
Now, you might think that this is how you address and communicate with other people on the web and, to some extent, you'd be right, but as far as we're concerned here, it's something a lot more important and covers how you access and use software and still manage to keep safe. Accessing software (Programs and Apps.) usually means from the internet nowadays. The days of buying CDs or DVDs are long gone, though you may occasionally come across specialised software that comes on a USB drive!
The first rule when downloading a file is to select to save it to your hard drive or device - do not select 'run' direct from the web site, unless you are very sure of the source - and then check the file with your anti-virus program(s) before unzipping/running, or opening the file. You might think that downloading it to your device is unsafe, but if you run it from the web, it will be downloaded anyway AND run without you having the option to check it for viruses etc.
. For more information on how to do this, go to our Tools and Utilities page.
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One of the most important things to remember when browsing - and especially searching online - is
to trust a resulting link when you do a search on Google etc., The top links shown will be those most relevant to your search - so, relevant to what you have typed in, but not necessarily what you want. It does NOT mean that they are safe and that you can trust them, whichever search engine you are using (Google, Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckgo, etc.).
This is especially true if you are looking for reviews and recommendations on a product. In this scenario, you will often come across sites that are hosted (put online) by the very people who make, or are trying to sell, the item you're searching for, but are masquerading as buyers, or review sites. Always look at the or address of the site, as this will give you a good idea of whoever has actually put the information on that website online - though they may well try to disguise it by using a similar address to a well-known site, often by using a
Sub Domains are usually very safe: '' would, for example, be a perfectly safe page on our website, if we chose to use this (though we don't use sub domains for our pages). However, a subdomain
be used to disguise a web address. What, for instance, would you think this address is: This would be a
fake address, as it would be a subdomain called 'ama' on a website called '', so be careful how you read website addresses! This is an extreme example, and most likely rare type of website disguise, but it shows what could be done. More likely, a fake site will simply have a mis-spelt name, like ''.
So, there are lots of things to be aware of and to check. You're never going to be completely safe on the web, life is just not like that, but if you keep a close look at email addresses, links, etc., and keep a backup of your personal data, then you at least have a chance of keeping safe, or at least getting back to where you were before it all went wrong - provided you have not suffered actual damage or loss, financially etc.. Backup is one of the most important aspects of using modern electronic devices such as computers, laptops, tablets and smart phones, so check out our Backup Page on backing up your data, so that you are prepared if, or when, the worst does happen.
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This page was last updated on: 09 November 2023
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