Recently, I’ve had a few clients ask me if I had any general safety tips for them when using a computer on the Internet.  I’ll list a few of them here and why you want to follow them.

  1. Keep your personal information private:  Remember that people on the Internet or people that email you might not be truthful.  They may be writing to you under a false identity.  With this in mind never give out your personal information on the Internet in a chat room, bulletin boards, common web sites (FaceBook, MySpace, etc).  This is a very good rule to institute with your children, making sure they know never to talk with someone on the Internet they do not know.
  2. Keep your financial information private: Credit card numbers, debit card numbers, social security numbers, bank account numbers and passwords!  All of it, sensitive information that you need to keep private!  How?  First off, no bank or financial institution is going to email you and ask you to “enter your account information for verification purposes by clicking on this link as we are conducting maintenance on your account.”  Do not use a link from an email to get to your bank’s web site.  This could be a hacker creating a fake web site that looks nearly identical to your bank’s web site.  Do not use your credit cards on a public computer in an Internet cafe, you never know when someone has installed software to monitor and record every keystroke on that machine.  You should also take caution when using public networks with your own personal computer (for example, using Panera’s or Starbuck’s wireless network) to check bank or credit card web sites.  Do this at home where you can be sure you are safe with no one looking over your shoulder or potentially snooping on your wireless traffic.
  3. Don’t fill out any “fun” questionnaires that are forwarded to you, even if they’re from your friends. Remember, you’re in a world where everything can get forwarded. All those personal things about you could land in the hands of someone who could use them to harm you.
  4. Private does not exist on the Internet: Do not post or list anything on web sites that you would not want everyone in the world to see – this includes writing on FaceBook or MySpace pages

These are just a few to get started.  I will come regularly back to this topic as it is a popular one and a wise one to remind ourselves of regularly.  Some other common sources you can check for online safety:

FBI Internet Safety for Kids – Internet Safety 101 for Kids and Parents