The less information you share online the better. Find out how you can take advantage of the right tools when it comes to using social networks, online shopping and online banking.

There are a number of online outlets, particularly social media, that play a huge part in our everyday life. It's easy to forget the implications sharing certain information on these sites can have.

Read on to learn how you can lock up your life and keep your online channels secure.

Sharing information on social networking sites

Sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are part of everyday life, but there are individuals on these sites who you would not want your family, children or colleagues interacting with.

  • Facebook is one of the most popular social networking sites, but it has also become a target for online stalkers and bullies. There are reasonable robust privacy settings under the 'account' tab
  • make use of reporting privacy violations for pictures, information and videos posted against peoples wishes
  • there are usually links and help pages on nearly all social networking sites and most websites will get back to you
  • if you don't get a response to your complaint contact the relevant sector ombudsman
  • as a final precaution contact the police
  • be careful about what information you post on social networking sites as it could be used to commit identity fraud against you.

Remember to think 'if someone randomly came up to me in the street and asked me for a piece of information, would I give it to them?' If the answer is no – don't put it online.


Keeping children safe online

If you have children or know someone who does, it's important they are aware of the dangers of using the internet.

  • explain the dangers of browsing and the risks of social networking, including online chatrooms, online gaming or clicking on things they shouldn't
  • make sure children are aware of hidden costs within games and mobile phone apps so you don't get stung with a big bill
  • if you have any reason to be concerned, check the browser history on your computer - this does not force your child to try and conceal what they are looking at online
  • the latest browsers allow password protection and banning of certain sites by users. You can find out more information by typing 'parent controls' into the help section of a browser.

For more information on protecting children online visit the online advice for parents section of our website.


Things to remember when shopping online

When you're shopping online, it's always good to ask yourself the following questions:

  • is the website reliable? You should feel more confident if the website is a huge and reputable retailer. Be wary of smaller sites. Consider typing the website address along with the words 'reviews' into a search engine
  • when making payments does a secure symbol – usually a padlock – appear in the bottom right on the screen? On older computer operating systems it may appear elsewhere. This padlock shows that when a person is putting in their card details they are doing so over a secure internet connection
  • is the deal too good to be true? Does the website seem unusual? Did the payment process seem weird? If so cancel your shopping. Be aware of poor spelling and grammar or pictures or images which do not look professional. If you have any concerns about a website being fake report it to Action Fraud - the UK's national fraud reporting centre.

How to use online banking safely

Online banking can be a fantastic tool for getting your finances sorted with ease. However there are plenty of things to consider when banking online to make sure you don't become a victim of cyber crime:

  • check the URL at the top of the page and consider the page layout of the site. The URL is a unique address for a specific webpage. Major banks are really good at taking down websites pretending to be their own however some slip through the net.
  • don't write your online banking password out and leave it near your computer
  • if you receive an email alleging to be from your bank asking you to click on a link and put your account details in – ignore this.

Remember, if you purchase something over £100 using a credit card, you get added protection if the goods don't arrive as they should.

Banks are sometimes able to reverse the transaction or prevent money from leaving your account so it's important to remember if there's a problem – act quickly.

If you do not have it type 'antivirus' or 'computer security software' into a search engine and a list of options will come up.

Email security Consider setting up primary and a secondary email accounts. Use the first one for personal emails and the second one that you use when you sign up to online services or make online purchases. This will help you receive fewer spam mail.