Watch out for internet scams

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Q. I did not renew the antivirus on my computer last year and recently I have started to have a lot of different things popping up on my screen. My bank have contacted me advising that there is strange activity on my account. Is it possible that this is linked?

A. It is possible that your computer has picked up a virus which has left you open to an online scam. Scams are schemes to con you out of your money.

Computer hackers use computer viruses to gain access to your computer details, to steal your money and identity, then scam you.  They may also get into your wireless (Wi-Fi) network for the same reason.

Viruses can leave unwanted software on your computer that:

*secretly monitors your computer activity

*scans for private information, such as passwords

*gives scammers control of your computer

*send out spam email

*display unwanted advertising

*hijack your web browser

*use your computer to host illegal websites to con other people.  

They can also switch off your computer’s security defences, leaving it vulnerable to more viruses. And they can track what information you put into your computer by monitoring your keyboard strokes.

Fake emails and websites can trick you into buying something bogus or handing over personal details. For example websites that appear to sell event tickets. You pay for the tickets but they never arrive.

Online scams are schemes to con you out of your money using your computer and the internet, either through fake websites or emails. Although there are many ways scammers can get into your computer to steal your money and identity, there are ways you can protect yourself.

What you can do to protect yourself

To protect your identity and cash from online scammers:

*only allow someone to remotely access your computer if they are from a trusted source, such as your internet service provider

*create passwords which are long, unique and use a mix of random numbers and lower and upper case letters.

The longer the password the harder it is to guess. A 10 digit password is better than an eight digit one. Make sure you change passwords regularly and don’t share them

*use antivirus software and keep it up to date. This will check for malicious computer programmes and monitor files before they are opened. Up-to-date software is important to protect against the most recent viruses.

If you buy software online make sure it is from a genuine supplier

*understand what software you are installing on your computer or phone and make sure you are using a secure site when you buy software, tablet or smart phone.  A secure site will have a web address beginning with https not http. The ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’

*make sure you leave your firewall switched on. A firewall is a security shield that stops scammers getting into your computer. Operating systems such as Windows come with built in firewall settings. They can monitor and warn you of unexpected access to your computer

*make sure you regularly install updates to your operating system. Windows is an example of an operating system

*install the latest version of your web browser, for example Internet Explorer, which will have the latest security features.

*don’t open suspicious or unknown emails, email attachments, texts or pop up messages. For example an email with an unusually worded subject heading

no genuine online company will contact you to ask for your log-in details, such as your password or user id. You should only need to provide this information when you are logging onto a service such as online banking

*before entering payment card details on a website, make sure the link is secure.

You can make sure you have a secure link check there’s a padlock symbol in the browser window frame, which appears when you attempt to log in or register.

Be sure the padlock is not on the page itself – if it is this will probably indicate a fraudulent site

Get free, confidential and independent advice from your nearest Citizens Advice at or for further information go to