The straight forward guide to staying safe online

Online Safety: Scams, Spam, Viruses and Clouds

Have you ever had a phone call informing you that you have a virus on your computer, or a slow internet connection? Have you ever wondered why you get so much spam? Are you concerned your computer might get a virus and you’ll lose all your files? Does anyone know what the Cloud actually is?

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It provides guidance on subjects such as staying safe online, knowing how to identify a scam call or spam email, and how to protect your files on your computer and in the Cloud.


What you’ll learn

Within this guide, you will find chapters that address the main issues people have when it comes to online safety. Each chapter concludes with some key lessons.

Pins & Passwords

Learn how to create complex passwords, store them safely and conveniently and know what steps you should take if a password is hacked or guessed

The Cloud

If your computer caught fire would that be a disaster because you’d lose all your data? If so, it’s time to learn how to back-up to the Cloud


Discover how to minimise unwanted emails by taking some simple steps and learn the advantages of owning more than one account


Know what to look for in emails and on websites to keep yourself virus-free and find out whether you should invest in anti-virus software

Arm yourself against cyber criminals

Crime figures published in the UK in 2017 estimated that one in 10 people have been victims of cyber crime. See the story here. When RBS revealed that in one six month period they lost £25m, it’s not surprising that 70% of its scammed customers didn’t get a penny back. My FREE Online Safety guide reveals some very simple steps you can take right now to protect yourself against cyber crime.


70% of scammed RBS customers gOt no money back


50% of crime is thought to happen online


What’s inside

You’ll find straight forward guidance and key lessons within the 50-page Online Safety guide. Below you’ll find an overview of the chapters

Scams by phone
  • Consider scams online or on the phone as you would at your door, or on the street. If someone knocked on your door and asked for £50 would you give it to them? Likewise, you wouldn’t give a stranger your bank card and PIN code if they asked for it. Use your instincts and question whether the person calling you is genuine or not.
  • No one will ever call you saying your computer is slow or has a virus. This is a scam. Hang up immediately. Consider blocking anonymous or international numbers to reduce the amount of unwelcome calls.
  • Don’t be afraid to challenge someone calling you and ask them to prove they are who they say they are. If they can’t prove it, but say the matter is urgent, ask them for other options, such as visiting your local branch or sending a letter or an email.
Scams by email
  • If you receive a message via email, SMS text, Skype, Facebook, WhatsApp, or any similar messaging services from someone you don’t recognise, or if the content looks suspicious or doesn’t make sense (e.g. an email from a hotel you’ve never booked), then DELETE THE MESSAGE.
  • If you receive a message that looks suspicious, but you would like peace of mind, then contact the organisation where the email is from. Contact them by phone or a new email – do not reply to the suspicious looking email.
  • Be wary of emails with links or attachments, or with peculiar subject lines. Check if the email is legitimate by hovering over, or clicking the sender’s name – you will be able to tell it is illegitimate if the company’s name doesn’t appear.
  • Don’t give your email address to anyone you don’t want to email you. This includes publishing your email address on social media or on a website.
  • If you do complete a form where you must give your email address, ensure you’ve checked (or unchecked) the privacy options about what the company will do with your email.
  • Do not attempt to unsubscribe from spam. Instead, mark it as ‘Spam’ or ‘Junk’ and let your email service or programme sweep it up.
  • Consider two email addresses, one for friends, family and important correspondence, and another for marketing, mailing lists, etc.
  • Everyone has either caught a computer virus or come close to getting one, the same way we’ve all experienced being scammed in some shape or form. Don’t worry, don’t panic – as we’ve already said, there are bad people out there trying to scam you online, like there are on the street. Don’t be afraid to go out, or online, just exercise caution and awareness.
  • Do not open any attachments on emails you do not recognise.
  • Do not open any attachments a web page tries to download on your behalf.
  • If you get an email from a friend you were not expecting, or contains peculiar content, then check the address of the email carefully, or contact them to make sure they haven’t been hacked.
  • If you depend on your machine or device for business, I would recommend paying for Anti-Virus. It’s still worth considering if you use your computer a lot or perform Internet Banking, for example.
  • Be aware of the types of viruses and scams. Newspapers and national news often carry coverage of threats such as widespread virus outbreaks or scams. This will, unfortunately, become more common as the digital age evolves, so keep yourself informed.
Genuine software
  • Don’t click ‘Next, Next, I Accept, Finish’ without knowing what you’re accepting. Check the software you’re installing, the same way you’d check a contract or stranger who wanted to sell you something.
  • Purchase and use genuine software from trusted locations. Check software is genuine when it’s installing.
Staying safe online
  • You wouldn’t walk into a random building that proclaimed to represent your bank and hand them your money for depositing. You’d want to make sure it was your bank. Make sure the websites you give your money or details to are genuine by looking for the padlock symbol.
  • If a web site starts behaving in a way you don’t like or didn’t expect, then close it or reboot your computer.
  • It’s incredibly rare (almost impossible if you’re running the latest Anti-Virus and patches on your computer) to get a virus just by accessing a web site. However, if the website forces you to download a file or prompts you to ‘Accept’ something you didn’t ask for then close it and reboot your machine.
  • On your social media accounts, check your privacy settings – make sure you’re not advertising to the world what you’re up to.
Servicing your computer
  • Get rid of your XP machine. You may be attached to it, or can’t afford to buy a new one, but it could prove costlier to keep it. If you do have XP and insist on keeping it, then I would advise against connecting it to the Internet or plugging in any USB drives to keep it safe.
  • If your machine wants to update itself, let it – don’t put it off.
  • Do not let anyone access your computer who you don’t trust.
  • Learn to recognise how your computer behaves and acts. If strange prompts, or messages start appearing, and you think something is wrong, then follow your gut and assume something is wrong. Run Anti-Virus scans and updates. Get some help if you’re worried.
Pins and passwords
  • Use complex passwords. Yes, they are annoying to remember, but it’s less annoying than finding someone has hacked your account and spent all your money.
  • If you do need to write your passwords down, then do so securely. It’s not a myth that people write their passwords on a Post-It and stick them on their monitors. Would you leave a spare key in your latch, or write your pin on your bank card?
  • If your password is hacked or guessed, then change it and never use it again.
  • If you store your passwords in a file on your computer, secure the file as best as possible by putting a password on it and obscuring it as much as possible.
  • If you feel confident enough, consider setting up Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) on your most critical services, e.g. email, social media.
Backups and the Cloud
  • If it’s important to you, back it up!
  • The question I ask most is: ‘If your computer caught fire right now and you lost all your files, what would you do?’ If the answer is: ‘I’d lose all my data and it would be a disaster’, then back up your files.
  • If you do back up to ‘The Cloud’, remember to ensure the Cloud service you are using has a complex password, and consider


Andrew Perry

I’ve worked in IT for as long as I can remember, and messed around with computers for even longer. I’ve always had an interest for new technology, even at the age of three when I showed my Mum how to use our new VHS video player. I’m fortunate that it led me into a very interesting career. I’ve worked across a variety of sectors, including financial, aviation and pharmaceutical, performing roles from helpdesk support to running multi-million pound projects. Because computers and technology are my hobbies, I also find myself helping family and friends fix and secure their computers, tablets or mobile phones. Much of the advice in this guide is precisely what I give when I’m helping people out. As well as a career in IT, I’m also a fiction writer. You can find out more about that at my website If you’d like to send me a message or ask a question about this guide, please fill in the form below.

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Comments and IDEAS

Cyber Security Community is just about just that: the Community. If you have any ideas, feedback or are worried about a subject you’d like to discuss or see in the next book, please leave a comment below…

1 Comment

  1. Tina

    Very useful and excellent advice.


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