It is no secret that I am NOT a fan of April Fools’ Day. In fact, I don’t really care for practical jokes at any time of the year. I suppose it stems from the first time I was pranked, bullied was a more accurate description in high school, when older girls thought it funny to pick me up and throw me into a large garbage can on April Fools’ Day. They may have thought it hilarious…I did not! Then, my first year teaching in a public junior high school a boy, who for approximately 10 seconds lost all sense of rational thought about the consequences of his actions on April Fools’ Day, decided to drop a raw egg on my head when he walked by me. Although he towered over me, he cowered as I “explained” the seriousness of what he had just done and the principal backed me up later. Let’s just say no one was laughing then.
Today I received an email sent to me from someone claiming to be from the Apple iTunes Store. It was a copy of a receipt for close to $150.00 claiming I had purchased movie rentals from Apple and they were confirming my purchase. “Issues with this transaction?” it read,”Click the link below to get a full refund.” Well, obviously I had all kinds of problems with that kind of purchase but I refused to click on the link and immediately called the good folks at Apple Support. Sure enough this is considered a “phishing” scam. Ne’er-do-wells who get people panicked about a large charge on a credit card and then when an unwary person reacts by clicking the link, they have ways to access your personal information. Luckily, I’ve just taught an intensive course on online safety to my Grade Sixes over the past few months so I consider myself pretty savvy about this type of stuff. Still, it got my heart racing. I despise online hoaxes and people who nefariously look for “easy” targets online. I may not have fallen for their trickery, but there are bound to be others who will fall for the ruse.
So on this April Fools’ Day, I just want to impart a bit of wisdom to those who spend time online but may be vulnerable when it comes to online safety. Here are some online safety tips so you won’t be played the fool today or ANY day!
- Ensure you have the latest security software for your computer.
- Secure your accounts by having long passwords with a combination of capital and lowercase letters , numbers and symbols. (I know it’s a pain to remember passwords, so if you’re like me and constantly forgetting passwords, write them down on a piece of paper and file it away from your computer.)
- Unique accounts need unique passwords. (Don’t use the same password for every one of your online accounts!) Change them all periodically as well.
- Ensure that your online presence is also secure especially on social networking. Set your privacy settings so that you control who sees what about you on Facebook, Instagram etc. Remember that everything you share online has the potential to be seen by anyone if you don’t control your privacy settings.
- Links in email, tweets, posts and online advertising are often the ways cybercriminals compromise your computer. If it looks suspicious, even if you know the source, it’s best to delete it. If in doubt, throw it out!
- When banking and shopping, check to be sure the sites is security-enabled. Look for web addresses with “https://,” which means the site takes extra measures to help secure your information. “Http://” is not secure.
- Be a smart shopper online. Be wary of communications that implores you to act immediately, offers something that sounds too good to be true or asks for personal information. NEVER give out personal information or send money to a company or someone online without verifying the legitimacy of the source. Remember: “the enemy prowls around like a hungry lion, waiting to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
- Cyberbullying is a crime! Do not post anything online about someone that you would not want posted online about you! It’s the “Golden Rule” of the Internet!
- Back up your computer regularly and if your computer “dies”, as they all do within a few years of purchase, right :), remove your hard drive before recycling your old computer. (We dismantle the hard drive ourselves after we’ve backed up any content we want to save and scrap the metal.)
- I can’t help but think of Matthew 10:16 whenever I am online: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Be wise, and stay safe!