Making Mistakes Online Can Cost You

We’ve talked many times about the things we can do in advance and during an emergency to stay safe.

But when nothing major is going on, we have a tendency to let our guard down. It can be something as simple as sitting down at the computer and clicking on the wrong thing.

A disaster caused by extreme weather can destroy many of our belongings. But a mistake made on a sunny day while we’re online can cost us as just as much.

It’s important to know what to avoid when we’re on the Internet. Especially because there are many people out there who want to take advantage of us.

Tips for online survival

The good news is that almost all of the bad things that can occur when we’re online are easily avoidable. Here’s are nine tips for avoiding online problems:

Use virus protection.  There are hackers who do almost nothing else all day than create viruses and try to figure out how to transfer them to as many computers as possible. Virus protection is well worth the expense.

Create tough passwords. Believe it or not, there are folks who still use passwords such as “123456” and “password.” Their accounts can be hacked in about three seconds. Create and memorize difficult-to-guess passwords. And don’t forget to use different passwords for each of your important accounts.

Save your vacation pics. It’s fine to post your vacation photos on social media. It’s fun to relive those recent memories, and friends enjoy seeing them. But wait until you return from vacation to post them. Otherwise, you might as well post, “Hey, I’m on vacation. Please break into my house and steal stuff while I’m gone.”

Don’t trust public wi-fi. When you’re out of town, there are circumstances when you want or need to access the Internet. But be safe about it. Hackers go to public wi-fi places for the sole purpose of stealing people’s private information. Use a virtual private network (VPN) when using public wi-fi. This will create an encrypted connection through a secure server.

Don’t fight online. It’s incredible to me how much time people spend “yelling” at each other on social media about their political opinions and religious beliefs. Do they actually think the other person is going to change their mind about an issue because someone disagrees with them? Maybe they’re only venting, but either way, it’s a waste of time. Do something more constructive.

Unfollow, don’t unfriend. We all have those social media friends who think they have to announce their political opinions to the world every day. Sometimes several times a day. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with those opinions, they are annoying to see constantly. Unfollow that person (they won’t know) rather than unfriending them (which they probably will notice). Then check their page periodically for something you actually want to see, such as family accomplishments and goofy cat videos.

Don’t let alcohol talk for you. Probably everyone who drinks alcohol has done or said something while under the influence they wish they hadn’t done or said. Saying something online while buzzed might even be worse because there is now a record of it that anyone can save with a screenshot before you delete it after sobering up. Friends don’t let friends drink and post. By the way, don’t shop online after consuming alcohol, either. A great deal might not seem so great the next morning.

Check it out before forwarding. This is one that might not actually hurt you, but it could hurt someone else. When you see a post that declares something happened or someone said something, don’t just blindly forward it because you want to believe it. Check it out first to make sure it’s true. I’m guessing that at least 50 percent of the time you’ll discover it’s at least partly false and possibly even slanderous.

Avoid scams. I saved the best (or worst) for last. It is mind-boggling to me what people believe on social media and in their in-box. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I know someone who recently fell for an email hoax and sent money to a stranger who promised to send her triple that amount in the near future as a thank-you. As any right-thinking person would guess, she did not hear back from the recipient of her naïve generosity.

So please, stay vigilant while you’re connected to the Internet. We can’t keep extreme weather away, but we can avoid the storms of life that come from making mistakes online.

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