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Protecting your personal information online
Follow these tips to help protect your personal details online and minimise your exposure to misuse.
It pays to keep your personal information personal
Whether we’re doing our banking, using our credit cards or just subscribing to a blog, we supply a lot of personal information to online organisations every day. The overwhelming majority of these are reputable and can be trusted with your details, but it’s not a perfect world.
By following a few simple guidelines, you can help stop your personal information from falling into the wrong hands.
What is personal information?
Personal information is information that identifies you. It can include your:
- full name
- phone numbers
- usernames and passwords
- business details
- date of birth
- email address
- bank details
Think twice before you give personal information online
Most of us consider personal information such as credit card details, usernames and passwords as particularly private or confidential. But other information like your name and email address, even your date of birth can still be used inappropriately.
Before you hand over any personal information, think about:
- how the organisation wants to use your information, and
- what you are agreeing to when you provide your information.
Organisations typically want to be able to verify your identity, process your payment and deliver the goods to you. They may also use your information to build a customer profile and email list.
Subscribing or registering
Subscribing or registering for almost anything usually requires a username or ID and an email address. You might also be asked for your age, gender, address, photo and personal likes or dislikes. Again, this can often be about building customer profiles. A red asterisk * usually identifies mandatory fields for registering. You can choose to leave other fields blank.
Competitions, prizes and rewards
Online competitions often ask for information that’s highly personal, such as personal interests and details about age and location. The promoters use this information to develop their marketing strategies or products.
Online games and virtual worlds
Before play can begin, online games often require registration details, including personal information. If you’re uncomfortable about the amount of information being requested, check with the website owner.
Security software can prevent spyware from tracking you online, reducing your risk of identity theft. To be safe, we recommend installing anti-virus and antispyware software. Telstra has a number of security solutions for both your broadband and mobile needs. Viruses and spyware are constantly being updated, so it’s important to update your security apps too.
Is the website secure?
Never send credit card or bank account details, tax file numbers, passwords or other personal information across the internet unless you’re on a secure website. Secure websites have web addresses beginning with https:// and a ‘locked’ padlock symbol at the bottom of the screen, which shows that data is being encrypted.
If you’re not sure whether a website is secure, call the organisation. And when you call, use a known number or one you got from a reputable source like the Yellow or White Pages. Don’t use phone numbers from the website you’re unsure about, or in emails you’ve received from them.
Read the small print
It’s not most people’s idea of a good read, but if you want to you see how your personal information might be used, you need to read the user agreements and privacy policies. This is where you’ll find out whether an organisation will use your information for marketing, or sell it to other marketers.
Don't give clues in your email address
Be careful about what your email address gives away. For example, if your name is Phillip Smith and you were born in 1964, PhillipSmith1964@hotmail.com discloses your full name and contains clues to your age. PhilS3876@hotmail.com is much harder to decipher.
What goes online, stays online
Once you’ve posted information online it can be difficult to remove and you may not have control over who sees or accesses it. If you’re joining an online community, make sure you read and understand the privacy policies first, and use any settings preferences to control information and image sharing.
Choose your password carefully
Is your password as secure as it can be? Use these simple do’s and don’ts to avoid unnecessary risks:
- use at least eight characters in the password
- mix letters and numbers, mix upper and lower case, and include characters (*&#) if the site allows
- change your password often
- consider using a password manager to create and manage strong passwords for each different account you use online.
- use birth dates or the names of family and friends
- share passwords with anyone
- keep passwords on the device.
Understand your location features
Smartphones have in-built geolocators that can give your exact location. This can be shared on social media or used by location services such as maps and public transport apps. Your position can also be embedded in images you take with your phone’s camera.
You might not always want the world to know where you are, so if you don’t need to share your location simply switch off the location services feature in your mobile and/or app settings.
Our tips to stay secure online
- Think twice before giving your personal details online
- Read online privacy policies
- Install security software or apps
- Only give financial details on secure websites
- Use a separate email account for subscribing to online services and groups
- Don’t trust emails that ask for your personal details
- Choose passwords carefully and change them regularly
More online resources
For more information about staying safe online visit telstra.com.au/cyber-safety
Keep yourself and your family’s mobile devices safe with Telstra Mobile Protect
Protect your identity on Android™ mobile devices with lookout.com/Telstra
Protect yourself against cyber security risks with staysmartonline.gov.au
To recognise, avoid and report scams, visit scamwatch.gov.au