Detective Chief Superintendent Anthony McNally, Head of Public Protection Branch, said: “Whether you are shopping, gaming or using the internet for dating there are steps you can take to make sure you and your family are safe online.
“If you are already thinking about those Christmas purchases please use sites that are reputable and make sure the products you are looking at are genuine. We want people and businesses to be extra cautious when grabbing those deals online – simple steps like double checking to see if the website and product is legitimate before making a payment, and also looking for any customer reviews which often act as a good touch point for safe online shopping.
“Online gaming is extremely popular so if you are a fan yourself or a parent or guardian of someone who is then please take some simple steps to make sure you are staying safe. This can include only accepting friend requests from people you know, never giving out personal information in a chat room or through instant messaging, and recognising when a situation is becoming abusive or harmful. It is especially important that your children know what to do if a situation online makes them feel uncomfortable and that they have the confidence to tell a trusted adult.
“The vast majority of people who use online dating sites are genuine however there are exceptions and it’s important to recognise when you are being misled. Fraudsters can use these sites to get your personal information or banking details; they can also use it to enter into a longer-term manipulation known as romance scams that can leave you substantially out of pocket. Sextortion is a form of blackmail where a perpetrator threatens to reveal intimate images of the victim online unless they give in to their demands. These demands are typically for money or further intimate images.”
Detective Chief Superintendent McNally continued: “Online criminals can be located anywhere in the world, targeting one person or many, and their number one goal is to get your money. As complicated as these global crimes might be, there are simple ways to stay safe online and protect yourself and your family this Christmas.”
· Be wary about who you invite or accept invitations from on social networking sites.
· Do not include any sensitive, private or confidential information in profiles or chat rooms
· Never give your password, personal details or banking details to anyone
· Do not share intimate videos online.
· Use privacy settings and parental controls to keep your loved ones safe
· If you think that you have been persuaded by anyone to part with payment details, contact your bank or card issuer immediately
More advice can be found on the Get Safe Online website at https://www.getsafeonline.org/northernireland/ or https://www.psni.police.uk
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