Roses, Chocolates, Wine and some Spams? Stay ahead of Scamsters this Valentine’s Day

Almost a decade and half ago, a fresh young face in my 8th standard class had shyly stood up and asked, “Miss, what’s Valentine’s Day”?

Cut to present times. The youth are well aware of, and start preparing days ahead for, Valentine’s Day. Handwritten love poems have given way to mass-produced cards. And it doesn’t stop there as we have come up with numerous ways to express love; rose sand candies have also been added to the list among many other romantic gestures. Dances and dates occupy the hearts and minds of the teens and post-teens and peer pressure drives them to hook up (for a date), buy flowers and gifts for their love interests and take them out to dinner/dance/outing.

And what about those yet to find a suitable partner for the evening? Or at wits’ end about the right gift for the lady love? Or those, who have been lucky to find a partner but don’t know how to entertain their best? Where do they find answers to these problems?

Yes, you guessed it. The cyber world has answers to all their problems and the solutions too. This is the opportunity that online crooks wait for.

With the advent of internet and rise in the popularity of using e-sites for fulfilling demands, the common tendency is to search online for things right from life partners to holiday packages and gifts. It is hugely advantageous, no doubt, given the fact that one doesn’t have to hop from one shop to another checking out for the perfect gift to impress their partner. All one needs to do is to Google search for information; visit the particular site, select what is needed and go about ordering it. But like the old adage goes, “there’s many a slip between the cup and the lip”; unless one practices caution and is judicious, one can land in big trouble. A safety tip to keep in mind: check the authenticity of a site, its transaction policy, buyer’s review before making a purchase

Some of the common hunting grounds for cyber crooks are phishing mails, free e-card download sites, websites offering free music downloads and online dating and shopping sites. So, for all you love-struck peeps out there looking to do something ‘out-of-this-world” this Valentine’s Day, here are a few important things that you should keep in mind:

Stop, Think, and Then Connect

Do not have a partner for that BIG day? Planning to search dating websites? Well, you must act with utmost caution. Do not blindly trust all that you see or read. Verify site, read reviews and be as secretive as Old Man Scrooge when it comes to personal details like your identity and credit card details. Dating sites have become thriving con-sites, involving long-drawn cons, blackmails and ID thefts.

This Valentine’s don’t lose your heart, pocket and personal details.

Stop, Check, And Then Purchase

If you are planning to send your loved one a surprise bouquet at midnight or a set of teddy bears via e-tailers, it would be wise to stick to online shopping sites you or someone close to you have successfully used before. Also, opt for cash on delivery (COD) or payment by prepaid cards or credit cards, rather than debit cards. If you make the mistake of carrying out transactions on a fake site, you stand to lose your card or bank details to a conman.

Gift generously, but not blindly. Check your seller’s credentials first.

Stop, Scan, And then View

You will be receiving many exciting offers over e-mail or instant messages. Your friends would also be sending you apps to view e-cards and Valentine’s Day messages. Do not carelessly click on the links provided, but first verify the authenticity of their source.

Often, hacked accounts send out malware hidden in the form of e-cards and pop-ups. If you have comprehensive security software installed, your software will let you know if you have received suspicious or infected files and prevent you from accessing unsafe content.

For this Valentine’s, spread love, not malicious virus.

Stay happy and safe online folks! Happy Valentine’s Day!!

Safe & Happy Family- Protect Your Family Online, Even When You Are Not Around

Parents often ask me when they should start taking precautions to keep kids safe online. My answer is, you start right when your little one’s eyes light up more upon spying your phone and laptop than his toys. Before he takes his first step into the cyberworld, it’s always better to make the environment as safe for him as possible.

After all, whether in the cyber world or in the real world, the safety of your child is top priority for you, isn’t it? In the real world, you ensure to cover power sockets, install playpens, hire a babysitter to keep an eye on the child when you step out, remove all breakable and dangerous objects from easy reach and supervise the child in the playground.

To keep your child safe online, you secure your devices, supervise them when they go online and gradually educate them on safe surfing techniques and acceptable online behaviour.

Assuming you are one of those technology-smart parents who have already protected your devices with an antivirus software, it is now necessary to make the environment further secure for your child. So, you need a security software that will protect your naïve little one from cyber crooks, approaches of strangers, inappropriate content, and from inadvertently sharing personal details.

Get a parental control feature, in addition to your usual antivirus (and no, your normal antivirus does not warn you against spurious websites or monitor your child’s online activities). Install it and then activate parental controls.

At home I use cross device security solution, which gives my kids the freedom to discover the Internet safely. I can additionally safeguard my kids against exposure to inappropriate content, social networking risks, strangers, and other threats. Also, it’s very easy to buy, download, install and activate.

KEEP YOUR ADMIN PASSWORD A SECRET. Your children should not be able to use it to change all the settings you have made. That’s for their safety and security.

Everything else, do in full knowledge of your children, and with their consent. Explain to them that you love them and so are concerned about their online safety. Discuss with them before setting rules but once set, be firm. Do not allow kids to disregard rules. Penalize them by reducing net timings or device use periods.

Once you have activated parental controls using your admin login, set up different login ID for each child and then set limits based on age and maturity levels. For the very young, you can limit search engines to only kid friendly ones and limit net timings to when there is a responsible adult at home. You can set up content filtering to prevent accidental exposure to inappropriate content and block file-sharing programs. Activate remote alert to warn you if children try to access blocked site or content.

Do remember that you can also block certain content using the unique media filtering facility! Isn’t that a blessing considering the number of inappropriate clippings that get uploaded daily? I feel relaxed knowing that my security software is keeping an eye on my kids even when I am not around.  Getting alerts and information if and when my children interact with strangers, exchange personal details or try to access blocked sites has helped me watch over my children’s online activities

So why delay?  Be a savvy parent—get the shield of safety today! Safeguard your loved ones online. And teach them to Stop, Think & Connect.