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Expert Advice: How to Stay Safe Online

Gina Narramore

Gina Narramore



In today’s digital age, staying safe online is more important than ever. With the help of a Digital Privacy Expert, McCarthy & Stone tell how to secure your privacy on the internet.

Nowadays, it’s more common than ever to shop on the internet and January is an incredibly exciting month for shoppers who want to make the most of the post-Christmas sales - research has shown that last Boxing Day alone we Brits spent £8.8 million every minute.

 But, if you’re shopping online, you need to be careful as it can at times be risky, particularly if you’re not overly familiar with online tech and safety.

 At McCarthy & Stone, we’re often asked about online safety by our residents, with questions like ‘what are scam emails?’ and ‘how do I secure my privacy on the internet?’. So to help with this, we researched the top search queries and questions the over 60s have about online safety and spoke with Ray Walsh, Digital Privacy Expert at, to find out the answers.

 For our interview with Ray, we segmented the top questions into different areas of online safety to make them easier to follow.

Online Scams and Threats

What are ‘online scams’?

 Online scams are methods designed by criminals to steal money from customers. They usually involve tricking someone into entering their payment details to fleece their account of funds.

 For this reason, if you’ve been wondering how to secure your privacy on the internet, you’ve actually been thinking about how to avoid or counter online scams. Fortunately, by taking a few simple steps, you can keep all of your information safe.

What should I do if I think I’ve been a victim of an online scam?

Anybody who believes they have fallen victim to an online scam is advised to cancel their card by contacting their bank. You should tell your bank that you have been a victim as soon as possible and they will be able to help you and advise you of any next steps.

You shouldn’t be embarrassed if you’ve been caught in an online scam because they’re incredibly common and some are quite sophisticated. But, the sooner you tell your bank, the sooner they can help protect you and your money. They may even be able to give you some more information on how to secure your privacy on the internet.

How can I protect my computer from online threats?

When browsing the web, it’s always better to ensure you have an active antivirus running in the background. This will ensure that you do not run into any threats like malicious malware, adware or spyware that can be downloaded onto your device.

 Using privacy and security enabling extensions such as uBlock Origin or NoScript can also help reduce the potential for unwanted scripts to load on the pages you visit. Your computer should also have something called a ‘firewall’ enabled to ensure that no unsolicited inbound communications are occurring from the internet.

What should I do if I receive a suspicious email?

If you receive a suspicious email, you should delete it at once. If you open an unsolicited email, it is vital that you do not click any of the links or attachments contained within it, as this could cause you to be infected with malware.

Online Shopping and Banking

How do you check if a website is legitimate before making an online purchase?

A quick way to check whether a website is legitimate is by checking the URL. Legitimate websites usually have easily verifiable .com addresses, and a padlock to the left of the address to show that it is protected with HTTPS encryption – see the image above as an example.

If the padlock is missing or the address seems strange, you may want to use a website safety checker like Google Safe Browsing. If you’re still unsure whether a site can be trusted, it is best to search for the service to see if it has negative reviews on Trustpilot.

How can I stay safe when shopping and banking online?

If you’re shopping or banking online, you should take extreme care and make sure that you’re only visiting trusted websites directly. If you open a link in an email, you may be forwarded to fake portals for websites that appear to be genuine. These cloned login pages are designed to ‘phish’ people of their details.

Will my bank ever send me emails asking for my banking details?

No. Banks will never send you messages asking you to provide your details. If you receive an email that appears to be from your bank, close the email at once and delete it.

Will my bank ever ring me up and ask for my banking details?

No. Banks do not call their customers and ask them to provide their details, so you must always be wary of calls you did not initiate. If you receive a call from a legitimate-looking number, it is possible that scammers are using number spoofing software to make them look like the bank.

For this reason, it is essential that you never provide any information to anybody who calls you.

Social Media

How can I protect my privacy on social networks?

The best way to protect your privacy on social networks like Facebook is to proactively reduce the amount of data you share both with the service itself and your fellow users.

By only ever providing non-sensitive information about yourself and refusing to share important data, you can vastly reduce the risks associated with social networks.

You should also take the time to learn all the privacy features made available by the social media platforms you use. This will ensure that your account has been secured as much as possible. These can be found in the ‘settings’ or most social media platforms.

Using Tech and Online Features

How do I make phone calls using the internet?

You can make phone calls online using services like WhatsApp, Skype or Google Voice.

How do I watch TV or videos on the internet?

By visiting websites and services with embedded players and streams. Most major TV networks now allow this, including the BBC, ITV and Channel 4

Where can I listen to the radio on the internet?

By visiting any online radio station and clicking play. Nearly all radio is now broadcast over the internet as well as via FM or AM. 

Where can I find a computer training course?

Local libraries, education centres and community centres often run these courses. Search on Google for the specific kind of computer training course you require in your area.

Is there any equipment that can help me use a computer?

Tilt-able screens, anti-glare screen filters and keyboards with larger keys are just some of the equipment you can use to improve accessibility on your computer.

Further Support with McCarthy & Stone

We hope you’ve found this advice on how to stay safe online useful. But, remember if you do still have any issues or concerns you can contact experts like Ray or use Government resources like this to get their help and guidance.

At McCarthy & Stone, our friendly teams are always on hand to help with any questions our residents have, and we take great pride in creating a community for our residents across our developments and we always have their best interests at heart. This is why we’ve launched our Feeling Younger’ campaign, so you can make the most of your golden years and maybe even learn a new skill in the process.

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