Protect yourself online

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Many of our everyday activities, like school, work, doctor’s visits and banking are now online. This can make personal information vulnerable to cybercriminals. Learn more about how to protect yourself online.

Tips to keep your information safe online

  1. Create strong passwords, and reuse them as little as possible.
  2. Never click on links from an email you did not expect, or in a text from a phone number you do not know.
  3. Remember that any request to pay a bill or fee with a gift card is a scam. 

 Learn more about online privacy and security from the Federal Trade Commission.

Protect your passwords

One of the most common ways scammers can get your data is by stealing passwords to important accounts. Making strong passwords is an easy and useful way to protect your data. 

Update often

  • Experts suggest updating passwords every three months.

Use long phrases instead of short words

  • Try using famous quotes, common sayings, or even song lyrics for your passwords. Long phrases like “we all live in a yellow submarine” are easy to remember, and harder for a computer to guess.
  • Add numbers, capital letters and special characters to your passwords. (For example, P4$$w0rD.) 

Create unique passwords for each specific account  

  • Reusing passwords puts your accounts at risk. If a scammer gets one password, they can open every account connected to that password.
  • Focus on making your most important accounts safe by choosing unique passwords. Start with your banks, social media or health insurance.

Find more password protection tips at the AARP fraud watch network.

Recognize common scams

Internet scams happen frequently, as cybercriminals make up new ways to get your data. Here are some of the most common scams.

Phishing scams

One of the most popular scams is phishing. Phishing is when scammers pretend to be a reliable source — like a business, government agency or even a relative— to get your personal information. They send fake emails, phone calls and text messages, trying to get a “bite.” 

The most common phishing scam is an email with hyperlinks to fake websites that can steal passwords or infect your computer with a virus.

Look for these signs to spot phishing emails:

  • Grammar and spelling mistakes
  • Strange or unfamiliar email addresses
  • Scary language, like threats of legal action, or demands for money
  • Offers that seem too good to be true, like a big cash prize

Gift card scams

One popular scam is when a scammer contacts you and tells you to buy a gift card to pay a fake bill or fee. Examples of these scams include messages about: 

  • A problem with your Social Security account
  • A power company threatening to cut off your service
  • Winning a big cash prize, if you buy a gift card first
  • A grandchild or relative who suddenly asks for money with no warning

Coronavirus scams

During the pandemic, many businesses moved online. Scammers created new scams that played into fears of Covid-19:

  • Unexpected texts/calls asking you to pay for a vaccine 
  • Scary warnings about new Covid cases in your area
  • Offers for fake Covid tests to steal your insurance info
  • A text about a package you didn’t order is on its way, with a link to its “tracking number”

Check out more with Consumer Report’s Scam & Fraud Protection Guide  and Protect Yourself From Common Scams.

Reporting fraud

If you see any of the scams listed here, you can call the AARP Fraud-Watch Helpline at 877-908-3360, or contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Want to learn more about internet scams? Check out the Federal Trade Commission's glossary of common scams.