5 tips to stay secure online

  • Cara Casey, Personal Finance Writer
  • 26 February 2024
  • 5 mins reading time

It’s completely routine for most people today to check smartphones, browse social media, post a few reactions, trawl emails and maybe click on a few social media links. But these online activities could leave us susceptible to cybercrime.

People are increasingly falling victim to online identity fraud. This involves the unauthorised use of your name and personal details to steal from you or commit a crime in your name.

The UK had the highest volume of identity fraud cases ever recorded in 2022, amounting to 277,000, with the number increasing almost a quarter on the previous year. Moreover identity fraud costs UK citizens around £4 billion a year, and this crime is surging to record levels.

In publishing these figures, Cifas, a national body that helps companies and consumers prevent fraud, said 86 percent of identity fraud took place through online channels (1). Against this backdrop, here are five tips that could help you safeguard your personal data.

1. Turn on two-step verification

Two-step verification provides another layer of protection for your personal data on social media, banking, email, and online shopping and loyalty accounts. This form of verification requires a face or fingerprint scan, or a PIN or code sent via text, email or authenticator app, to access the account.

Many devices will prompt users to switch on two-step verification. It’s often called two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA). Spending just a few minutes setting it up could help you avoid the time and stress of dealing with a fraudulent impersonation on your bank or social media accounts.

2. Use multiple passwords, make them complicated

When it comes to passwords for any account, the longer and more complicated the better.

In an age of convenience, it’s tempting to use the same password for every social media, credit card or shopping account. But this could potentially mean a cyber criminal need only access one password, once, to get hold of your entire personal data.

Using different login credentials for each account is trickier. But password managers can help you securely store and manage online passwords; they can also help generate complex passwords.

You may want to ensure you have a strong password for your email account, as many people use their email to reset passwords for other online accounts or services. So you could be vulnerable to cybercrime if criminals get access to your email. The National Cyber Security Centre recommends using three random words to create strong passwords, such as ‘applenemobiro’.

3. Review and update your privacy settings

Fake advertisers and fraudsters can benefit from people’s inattentiveness to privacy settings. Left unchecked, these settings can allow anyone to review your social media activity and take the bits they need for fraudulent transactions. Loose privacy settings can also enable criminal gangs to target you with false advertising based on your interests.

So it’s worth reviewing the privacy settings on every account where your personal data is stored: it can be surprising to see how much of your data is accessible via your apps. The aim here is to take back control of who can see your posts and limit the risk.

It’s also worth checking your previous activity to see if any personal information is inadvertently given away in photos. This could include your address, place of work or age.

While checking your settings, try backing up your data. Should your phone, tablet or laptop be stolen, this could help you quickly retrieve your personal information across multiple accounts.

4. Beware of clickbait

Clickbait is a form of online content, perhaps a headline, designed to encourage you to click on a link that often takes you to content of doubtful value.

A clickbait link will typically be sent to social media accounts and will try to tempt you with discounts or vouchers for well-known retailers. The offer often comes with a redemption deadline, intended to rush people into making a mass of clicks.

When a user clicks on the link, they’re taken to a page to enter details that are then used for dubious purposes. Alternatively, the page might carry malware that infects your device.

5. Check links for telltale signs

Many links may initially appear legitimate. But if they carry some information that sounds suspicious, or a discount that seems too good to be true, then you can check their credibility.

Cutting and pasting the link into the website checker provided by Get Safe Online (along with Cifas, ScamAdviser and other partners) can help establish whether it’s what it purports to be. This checker generates a trust score based on data sources and reports of malicious websites. The key is to check it before you’re enticed by the clickbait.

Unfortunately no amount of tips or rules can fully protect you from becoming a victim of online crime. Even so, following Get Safe Online’s advice to ‘Use your instincts and common sense’ could improve your chances significantly.


Cifas (, ‘This is Fraudscape 2023’, 21 February 2024.

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