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Staying safe on-line

The internet provides us with an abundance of opportunities - for education, browsing, buying and selling online, communicating with work colleagues, friends and family alike.

Regrettably there are always those who will seek to take advantage of us or influence us when we are on-line. Unfortunately some fraudsters deliberately target older people, and those who are more vulnerable. However there is no reason we cannot continue to take advantage of all benefits the internet has to offer safely and securely if we follow some very simple precautions.

These simple rules will help to make sure you, your computer and your money stay safe when you go online.


'Spam' is junk, unsolicited emails, messages or social media posts promoting products such as loan consolidation offers, 'miracle' drugs, sexually-explicit products and websites. These are usually scams and as a general rule should always be avoided and ignored.

Email scams

Some spam ask for personal information, such as your bank details. This is called 'phishing'. If you get an email from someone or organisation who seem to be a bank saying there is a problem with your account, contact the company in question directly to get confirmation it's from them, but don't reply to the email and NEVER send details of your bank account or password or pin number via email or message. No bank or building society will ask you to do this.

Be wary of statements that:

  • offer free gifts, prizes holidays, or claim 'You're a winner!'
  • 'Offer discount or 'don't miss' deals
  • Offer discount prescription medication or other discount deals.
  • Appear to be from official government agencies e.g. banks requesting information.

Be wary of emails, posts or messages from people or businesses that you deal with who ask you to "Change of bank details" for upcoming payments.  Always contact them by other means, phone by calling a verified phone number or face-to-face, to verify that those new details are correct.

Report Fraud to Action Fraud. You can report fraud including online or internet crimes using the Action Fraud Reporting tool. Action Fraud is UK's national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has a Report a Suspicious Website Service for the public to report scam websites. Send a link from websites you think could be for scams and it will investigate.

Cyber bullying

Cyber bullying is any form of bullying which takes place online or through your internet devices such as smartphones and tablets, usually using emails, messaging or social networking sites such as Facebook, Whatsapp or Twitter. The guidance for dealing with cyber bullies is to 'stop, block and tell'.  Don't answer back (as this will only feed the abuse), block the person or message, and tell someone you trust.

If you think that you or someone you know is being subjected to abuse on-line then visit our page What to do if you think someone is at risk of being abused for advice and details on whom to contact.


Viruses are malicious computer programs that are hidden in posts or emails which are activated when you open a link on a message or email. Typically you are invited to open an attachment or download a file in the message or email, which causes the virus to infect your computer or internet device.  Sometimes this is just to maliciously cause you problems, but sometimes it's to gain access to information on your computer which may lead to fraudulent activity.

Emails from people you don't know

Never open attachments, links or files from senders you don't recognise.

Emails or messages from people you do know

Sometimes you may get an email or message from someone your do recognise, but there is no text except to say 'hi' or 'good morning'. This is then followed by a link. This is most likely fraudulent and the link should not be opened. Someone has acquired access to that person's device, account or email address and used it to send out potentially damaging links which may contain viruses.

Be vigilant - one of the most common ways a device or computer becomes infected is when a user accepts what they see on screen without first reading the prompt before proceeding.

You can buy computer security software to detect and block potentially harmful emails and viruses - some of these products are listed below.

  • Ensure that you do not give your details to every website you visit, such as your email address or other contact details. This will reduce the risk of your details being passed on or sold to spammers.
  • Reputable sites will give you an opportunity to unsubscribe from the mailing list if you decide you do not want to receive any more chain e-mails from them. But be wary of companies or websites you don't know offering this facility -this will only confirm to them that your email address is valid and may result in more spam. 
  • Block possible junk e-mails. Most email services have the ability to this with a function allowing you to block mail from certain senders. You can also buy security software that will do this as well, some are listed below.
  • Ensure you have security software installed on your computer and keep it up-to-date. These can come pre-installed with your computer, but if not, buy or download free software from the internet. We list some of them below.
  • Automate software updates. Many software programmes will automatically connect and update to defend against known risks.  Make sure 'automatic updates' is turned if that is an available option.
  • Protect all devices that connect to the internet. Make sure you enable any security options on computers, smart phones, tablets and gaming systems,
  • Only create accounts with companies and organisations you trust and keep the details secure.
  • When buying online, make sure page where you enter your payment details is secure. You can do this by looking in the web address line at the top of your browser - it should say  https:// at the beginning. Non-secure websites only have http:// (without the s)
  • Make passwords strong, secure and unique
  • Keep records of password safe and secure
  • Set any privacy and security settings where possible
Last updated: 31/05/2024