5 reasons to prove that you don't need to be an expert to be safe on the internet

Online safety is an issue that has spanned the whole life-span of the internet, people always falling victim to scams and fraudulent advertisements that undermine safety online and in real life. Many people who have fallen victim to these scams have usually had no idea of what it was, believing the scam to be genuine. This is often due to the victim being naïve to the dangers of the internet, as it is not difficult to identify and fraudulent claim on the web. It is in fact easy to be safe on the internet by doing simple things that do not require an expert to do.


Visual aspects: Advertisement Scams

To be able to keep security on the internet is a simple task and is much like picking out a brand of shoe for example. It is usually easy to tell if it is a knockoff by its look and therefore quality. This is also true with online scams in the form of advertisements, as their quality can often undermine their legitimacy. These advertisements are often used by websites to gain revenue by hosting the ads to run their site, and the seedier ones are easier to come by, as not many other sites actually want spam ads clogging up their sites. Take for example this advertisement claiming to grant you a gift card worth $1000. This kind of deal can often lead you into disclosing private details to the advertiser even giving away your current location via your internet connection point, as clicking it may be seen by the computer as permission to enable tracking. It can even install damaging viruses onto your computer that can delete all of your files and corrupt your whole computer, essentially robbing you of years of digitally stores pictures and documents. However, it is easy to determine if it’s fake or not, as it does not interact with the mouse and is generic, appearing on many other sites looking exactly the same, pointing it out as fake, even to novices. Visual elements of an advertisement or scam are easy to spot and do not require a highly trained eye to spot, because online spam is usually made with little to no effort. It is therefore generally easy to distinguish official offers and advertisements from a fraudulent one without much effort. Overall, just don’t click on advertisements that look remotely suspicious or look like they don’t fit in with the rest of the site, as they are most likely traps.


Believability: Email Scams

Emails can undermine security very easily, especially back a few years ago when people were not even aware of scams via email. However, now that they are abundant and needed for many jobs, scammers are taking advantage of trusting and possibly gullible people, cheating them out of money and credentials. A famous instance that has popped up multiple times in the recent years is the Nigerian Prince email scam that claims to need your assistance in holding few million dollars for him in your bank account. In return you get a share of the money and all they ask are for you to deposit a few hundred dollars into their account before they can give you the money although they always seem to run into trouble and so they ask for another deposit, promising they’ll pay it back. This may seem like an easy trick to fall to especially since Hillary Clinton, former American Secretary of State, fell for it in 2011 and lost $80, 000 due to her falling for his claims that his transfers weren’t going through and thus needed more deposits (Nathan Lentern, 2015. THEUNOZBLOG). However, it does not require much common sense to realise that the scam is fake, because of how farfetched it is and if the transferor claims to need more than one payment if you are already stuck in the middle of this scam. Looking for the amount of the payoff and reasoning if it is realistic or not is the key to staying safe and common sense is all that is needed to avoid this scam because you wouldn’t buy a ‘magical’ item from a guy sitting in a dumpster, so why would you trust someone you haven’t met offering you unholy amounts of money for free?

Character Judgement: Chat Room Scams/Stalkers

Online chat rooms in social media are large at the moment, as they are a quick and easy way to communicate with someone almost instantaneously and can be extremely useful when used properly. However, there are many people who decide to go onto social networks, worm their way into chat groups and collect personal information. This is why the terms and conditions in social network sites always say to not reveal personal information online, as it can lead to catastrophic results such as stalking. People who are a cause of this often use fake personas and pretend to be familiar with you and your friends who are talking to one another to get names, phone numbers and even sometimes addresses, destroying your privacy and leaving you open for an undesirable visitor. An easy way to avoid these kinds of people is to customise a chat room to only include friends of yours which is what most people do anyway, usually opting for private chats with friends one-on-one, which happens by default anyway, already negating any negative effects. Or, if multiple people are being talked to, make the chat public so that a creeper will think twice before openly asking for information for fear of people calling them out. People like this will usually either talk in short, to the point sentences that are bland and almost automated, in which case it could be a chatbot, or they could be really enthusiastic and try too hard to fit in and relate to your age group.

Trusting: Phishing

Similar to the Nigerian scam mentioned earlier, Phishing is a similar business that specialises in gaining your bank account details by claiming to be your bank and asking you to verify your details with them, which includes inputting passwords to accounts, birth dates and phone numbers. This security risk is especially tricky to avoid as people generally take the email’s word for it and don’t bother checking the authenticity of the email, which only encourages the practice. This scamming practice would largely, along with other scams. By why in 2014 it was reported that “Australians are on track to rack up $90 million in losses to scammers…a slight increase to last year’s figures” – (Amy Bainbridge, abc news. 30/12/14). This figure and the fact that it is rising is worrying, and is a sign that people are not using common sense. This act as more of a reason to be aware of these scams. Because of this, at least in outlook.com anyway, the emails sent by aficionado establishments such as PayPal and Commonwealth Bank have an icon next to their title stating they are verified, which is directly linked to phishing. This makes them very easy to avoid now, literally highlighting the fact that they can’t be trusted by sometimes putting it into your junk folders because they aren’t verified or in your contacts. The sites themselves also have a green bar in their site address bar on the top of the page. This makes them an almost non-existent threat except a few people who are too willing to cooperate with something that has been shelved away for being suspicious. It could be said that this issue has been worked on so much by officials of the internet that it is almost non-existent, and could be seen as a sign that the internet may be becoming more user friendly.

All Factors Brought Together: Online Shopping Outlets

Online shopping has taken a large rise in recent years with the rise of the internet and the realisation that buying from your home is a lot less stressful than being run over in a shopping centre by other shoppers. It is also an opportunity for scammers to trick unsuspecting victims into giving them money and personal details. This is especially dangerous due to the sheer volume of people shopping online and who are also looking for cheap alternatives to official stores that charge outside of budget, as they offer wears for ridiculously cheap on a site that they made in an attempt to access bank details to steal money off of unsuspecting victims. They do this by labelling their sites with fake seals of approval and praise and by advertising prices that are extremely appealing but also outrageously cheap to the point that it’s ridiculous and obviously fake. Delia Rickard of the ACCC (Australian Competition and Customer Commission), also states; “If you’re using an internet site it’s always best to look for ‘https’ in the web address and the closed padlock [in the web address] as a symbol that is a secure site” – (Delia Rickard, 2015), which is another obvious visual indicator of a fake shopping site. It is therefore very easy to avoid these scams, as all you need to look out for is an abundance of praising labels that are the owners attempt at appealing to you, generic and blocky site designs, similar to my advertisement advice and the outrageous pricing. However these sites, although relatively easy to unmask and avoid, they can be devastating if caught in the trap, as you are essentially handing all of your private and financial details directly to someone on the other side of the screen. Overall, this scam is probably the most deadly of all, as there is almost no way to know that you have been scammed until someone breaks the news to you or your order never comes.

In Conclusion

Overall, and as I have highlighted, avoiding the plethora of security pervasions, is not all that difficult, and requires mainly common judgement and sense. Aesthetics such as look, interactivity and consistency of aesthetics should be evaluated before falling in these traps which are usually easy to spot. Common judgement is the biggest key to safety as most scams and dangers are easily avoidable if belief is grounded in reasonability. Finally believability combines both these aspects and causes the downfall of the scam due to the possible victim seeing through its rouse. These are the main downfalls of the scam/security invasion and therefore are your greatest bets to avoiding them and in general don’t trust everything on the internet, as you never know who or what is on the other side of the screen. Protecting your safety and security online is incredibly important, as it is easier than ever to ruin your financial and social life and your potential room for error is large and cannot be afforded. Hopefully this post has persuaded you that the internet is only a place for huge computer nerds and can be accessed by those of you with little experience. This whole paper can be summed up with one analogy: If you can avoid a guy in a white van offering candy on the streets, you can be safe on the internet.

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