Technology helps us stay connected and manage daily life. There is a huge range of devices, platforms, apps and software that can make life easier, especially for people with sight loss. But the online world can also create a lot of opportunities for fraud and identity theft, so online safety is now more important than ever.
We’ve put together the following advice to help keep you safe online. You may need some assistance with some of these options if you have a vision impairment.
General safety tips
- Protect your computer by installing antivirus software and make sure your browser, operating system, and software are kept up to date.
- If you connect to public Wi-Fi, never use it for banking or accessing personal data.
- Get familiar with your device and browsers – know where you can access settings to turn on and off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, AirDrop and Wi-Fi Sharing.
- Routinely change passwords never use the same password multiple times.
- Consider a reputable password manager app that can keep your passwords safe and in one place. You’ll only have to remember one master password and some even use fingerprint recognition.
- Two-factor authentication, when available, adds an extra layer of security. For example, if you log into a social media site with your email and password, you can be sent a text message with a code to verify that it is you logging on.
- Special wallets or cardholders with Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) technology can protect contactless payment cards, access cards for workplaces and other security purposes.
- When available, use biometric security, such as fingerprint or facial recognition, which is much safer than passwords or pins.
- Smartphones have the ability to share information between them - on iPhone, this is called Airdrop and on Android phones it's generally called WIFI sharing. It is safer for you to turn these features off when you are not using them. You can also make it so only devices in your contacts can share with you.
- Keep Bluetooth turned off until you need it so you don’t connect to devices without permission.
- Only download apps from your smartphone’s official store – such as Apple store or Android play store, as these will have gone through stringent security testing.
- Be careful which permission you grant to your apps. Consider the purpose of the app and if it needs what it asked for. For example, when you install Seeing AI (an app for reading text and identifying products and objects for people with sight loss), it will ask for access to your camera and your photos. This is a legitimate use of permissions. But for example, a shopping app does not need access to your contacts.
- When using apps where you may be communicating with people you don’t know, for example, Be My Eyes, never give your personal information or show sensitive information such as bank statements or hospital letters.
- Consider using an alias that can keep your identity safe.
- Your online identity becomes a virtual record, look after it, like you would your credit score or your personal identity.
- Your information is your property. Never share your login details, such as an Apple ID or Google Account with anyone.
- Never share passwords, even with family and friends.
Online scams and fraud are on the rise. In fact, around £670 million is lost every year to those that fall victim to scams.
These scams are not specific to anyone but, unfortunately, people with sight loss can be more susceptible to fraudulent activity as the online content can appear very similar to a brand you would normally trust.
Here are some tips to help minimise online risks:
- Be cautious when opening emails from someone you don’t recognise and don’t click on any links or open attachments if you’re at all suspicious.
- If you receive an email that looks like it’s from a reputable company check the email address of the sender and check the destination of any links. It’s always best to phone the company instead if you’re at all unsure.
- When viewing websites, always check for a padlock or lock icon in the address bar or for ‘https://’ at the start of the website’s address. This means it’s secure and the information shared between your computer and where the website is ‘housed’ is encrypted, so that no one else can see or change the information you’re sharing.
- Never give any information over the phone unless you can verify the company. For example, a common scam is where you’re asked for details about your computer/device. Real IT companies would never do this.
- Similarly, your bank would make sure you go through several rounds of verification before you need to give any details.
- Competition wins are often too good to be true. If you’re suddenly directed to a website which says you’ve won a prize, don’t believe it!
What should I do if I think I've been scammed?
If you are concerned you’ve fallen victim to a scam or fraud, immediately contact Action Fraud for help.
Social media and online communication
The rise in social media sites such as Facebook and online communication such as WhatsApp or FaceTime, connect the world in ways we never imagined possible before. This type of technology helps us connect with family and friends across the world through our computers and mobile devices. However, social networking sites also come with their own risks.
Shopping and money
Online shopping and digital money management are a way of life, getting your groceries to your door, or one day delivery from department stores are an ever-growing occurrence and with the ability to manage your money online, it has become easier to get hold of your essentials and deal with your direct debits. This can also be overwhelming but it doesn’t need to be.
Home network security
Technology is increasingly being found in our homes, with lots of devices being able to use the internet. As of January 2020, there were approximately 20.4 billion devices connected to the internet globally.
Keeping your home network safe is just as important as keeping your wallet safe.
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