Protecting yourself from online scams
How to stay safe online
Here are our tips on protecting yourself from online scams and
reducing your cyber risk. We also explain what you can do if you
have been the victim of a scam online.
Use strong passwords
Creating and using passwords is a part of doing almost anything
online. Passwords protect your personal information, so it is
important to create strong passwords and change them regularly.
Here are some tips on creating and using passwords:
- Don't tell anyone your passwords - a legitimate business or
company should never ask you for your password, so never share this
information via email or over the phone.
- Good passwords should have a combination of at least eight
characters and include letters (upper case and lower case), numbers
and symbols e.g. sDke$5!2.
- Use different passwords to access different online
- Don't allow your computer to save your passwords.
- Don't store passwords in a file on your computer.
Use anti-virus programs and keep
operating systems up to date
Anti-virus programs help protect you against computer viruses.
Computer viruses (also called worms or Trojan horses) can access
personal information, infect your computer and delete files or even
use your computer to attack other computers.
The best way to avoid viruses is to use common sense and avoid
suspicious websites. Don't download files from unknown sources or
click links from people you don't know. You will also need a good
anti-virus program as a back up to protect your computer.
Here are some things to consider when it comes to protecting
your computer from viruses:
- Make sure you have good security software (anti-virus,
anti-spyware and a firewall) and you keep it up to date.
- Ensure you turn on automatic updates for the operating system
(e.g. Windows) and update all other applications and software
programs when updates are available through their official
- Make sure your wireless network is encrypted and seek advice
from your internet provider if you are unsure how to do this.
- Turn off your computer or disconnect it from the internet when
you are not using it.
- Scan devices such as USBs or external hard drives for viruses,
before opening them on your computer.
How to protect yourself from ransomware
Ransomware is one of the most frequent and damaging typres of
malware affecting people today as it makes your computer or
its files unusable unless you pay a fee (a ransom). It can affect
both individuals and organisations, and can pose significant costs.
To protect yourself from ransomware:
- Immediately install the latest Windows updates for
applications, software and operating systems
- Confirm that backups are available and working
The Stay Smart Online website has information for both businesses and individuals and
households on protecting yourself from ransomware.
Watch out for unusual
Email scams are a cheap, easy and efficient way for criminals to
attempt contact with people and gather personal information or
financial details from them.
Keep these things in mind when checking your emails:
- Don't open attachments from people you don't know. If you don't
know who sent the email just delete it.
- Stop and think before clicking on any hyperlinks or
- Scan email attachments with security software before opening
- Legitimate companies and websites will not ask you to confirm
personal details or passwords via email, so do not reply to emails
requesting this sort of information.
- Beware of emails that don't address you by name.
- Never post your email address on online forums.
For more information on these sorts of scams, take a look at our
page on requests for
Avoiding social media
Scammers use social media to access personal accounts and
information, and to lure unsuspecting victims into parting with
their money. Here are a few things to keep in mind to protect
yourself when you are on social media:
- Be wary of random or unexpected contact, particularly if you
have replied to something on a website or social media
- Do not accept messages or friend requests from someone you
- If you are contacted out of the blue, don't respond to requests
for personal details, banking/credit card details or money from
people you don't know or trust.
- Be cautious of fake social accounts pretending to be a
legitimate company - always check that the page name/handle is the
- Beware of entering competitions online where you enter your
- Be wary when clicking on advertisements involving your
- As an extra precaution, delete/remove ads for financial
products from your social feed.
Think before you shop or send money
Taking a minute to think about what you are about to do can be
really useful when it comes to shopping or dealing with money
Here are a few things to help you stay safe online:
- Only deal with reputable online institutions.
- If you have not dealt with a business before, do an online
search to check recommendations and feedback from other
- Never send cash overseas or to people you have never met. Use
payment methods with in-built protections such as credit cards and
secure online payment facilities.
- Be aware of counterfeit items and if something seems too good
to be true, it probably is.
For more useful tips, visit our page on online
Protect your personal
Your personal information is valuable and you need to take
precautions to protect it when you are online, especially if you
are using social media sites.
Here are a few suggestions that can help ensure the safety of
your private information:
- Activate privacy settings when using social media sites.
- Never reveal details that might identify you, such as your full
name, date of birth, addresses, tax file number or contact
- Don't post anything you wouldn't want a stranger to know or
find out about.
- Information posted online can be easily stored and archived, so
keep in mind that anything you post is never really completely
Unfortunately, it has become very easy for someone to steal your
personal details and carry out illegal activities in your name. For
more information read our page on identify theft.
For more information on how to reduce the risk and impact of
identity fraud, visit iDcare a
free government-industry support service.
Know what your kids are doing
As well as keeping yourself safe online, it is also important
that you know what your kids are doing online, as they can also
become victims of an online scam.
Here are some tips that can help keep your kids out of trouble
when they are online.
- Always supervise your children when they are online.
- Consider using internet filtering to block certain search terms
- Have your computer set up in a communal area of the house.
- Get your kids in the habit of questioning things online and ask
them to tell you about any suspicious activity they run into
See the Office
of the Children's eSafety Commissioner website for more ways to
help your kids stay safe online. They have great information on how
to check the security of online games.
What to do if you think
you've been scammed
Think you have been scammed? Our report a scam webpage tells you which
Government agencies deal with which type of scams.
For tips on what to do if you have lost money see our phishing
Be aware of the risks of online scams and always
protect your personal information.
Last updated: 06 Jul 2017