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How to not leave an online trail for criminals

Date: 12 January 2024

Using social media and online services has become an integral part of our lives, allowing us to connect with people worldwide. But as we share more and more personal information, we leave a trail of data and information behind us. So, it's essential to consider how to protect our security and privacy.

Here are some tips for keeping your online accounts secure and protecting your digital footprint:

1. Be mindful of what you share

It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of sharing updates and photos on social media but think carefully about what you post.

Consider whether you want specific information to be public or visible to only a select group of people. Also, be aware of the potential consequences of sharing personal or sensitive information. This might be something to sit down and discuss with your family – especially if you are responsible for any children or young adults.

Tip: photos and posts can give away a lot of information, for example, your physical location or clues to your date of birth, address or workplace – which can be valuable data in the wrong hands. For example, posting things like holiday snaps while you are still away could be a burglar's dream! And consider the impact on others in those posts, too. For various reasons, they may not want to be on your social media profile - so as a courtesy, always check first.

2. Use strong, unique passwords 

As with any online account, using strong and unique passwords for your social media accounts is vital. Avoid using personal information or easily guessable words and consider using a password manager to help generate and store complex passwords for different accounts.

3. Enable multi-factor authentication 

Multi-factor authentication provides an extra layer of security by requiring you to provide a second form of verification, such as a code sent to your phone and your password. This helps to prevent unauthorised access to your accounts, even if someone else has your password – and could alert you to the fact that someone may be trying to access an account.

4. Think before you click

Be cautious about clicking on links and attachments. Scammers and hackers often use links (especially with emotion-heightening tactics such as urgency or 'fear of missing out') to try to trick us into visiting malicious websites or downloading malware. 

5. Review and update your privacy settings

Most social media platforms offer a range of privacy settings that allow you to control who can see your posts and personal information. Devote time to your 'digital health' by regularly reviewing these settings as many services regularly introduce new features or settings that may impact your privacy choices. 

It’s never going to be possible to have complete anonymity on the internet, but these tips can make it easier to manage and reduce your digital footprint to help protect your whole family's security online. It may take time to become more mindful of what you share and how you protect your accounts, but the peace of mind and protection it provides are worth it.

Stay safe from scams

For more tips on how to stay safe online and from scams, visit our ‘Stay safe’ webpages.

Stay safe from scams