Protect yourself online and in real life

The Internet is a useful and practical tool; however, caution is required when using it.

  • Always protect your passwords and user names. Choose a complicated password (for example, the first letter of each word of a sentence you will easily remember). Do not store it on your computer or in your bag. Avoid using the same password for all websites.
  • Do not share personal information regarding you or your family on social networks, such as your address, the dates of upcoming holidays or your grandchildren’s school. Protect your account using the security settings. Any photos you post must not display information that could reveal your identity.
  • Protect your computer with anti-virus software and update it regularly.
  • Never give personal information (name, date of birth, address, etc.) by telephone, text message, email or on social media. Your bank will never ask you for personal codes (PIN, password for online banking).
  • If somebody contacts you with bad news (an accident, etc.), keep calm and hang up if they ask you to pay anything. If you receive an email from a close friend or relative regarding their financial difficulties and asking for money, it is probably a trap; try to call them instead.
  • If you receive a phone call from a person telling you that he/she works for the European institutions or for a company that you know (a mutual insurance company [mutuelle], providers, etc.) and that you are entitled to a reimbursement, and this person asks for your account number and your digipass codes, hang up immediately. A digipass is only used to pay money, not to receive it. Never disclose the codes generated by your digipass. Never use the digipass when requested to do so by somebody over the phone.
  • Beware of premium-rate numbers: the potential victim receives a call on their phone from an unknown number which leaves a message and asks to be called back on an unknown premium-rate number. You should also be wary of text messages or emails asking you to ring those numbers.
  • Be wary if you receive an email from somebody you do not know. If the email address seems suspicious, block it immediately as spam. The authors of phishing emails try to extort personal information or bank details from you or try to infect a private or office computer with a virus. Do not click on links in text messages from an unknown sender.
  • If you have any doubts concerning certain bills or if you receive an email or text message telling you that you have paid a bill twice, contact your provider using the contact details you have to make sure that you do not become a victim of fraud.
  • Check the identity of websites you visit. When using an online banking site or making a purchase online, make sure that you are on the right page by checking that the prefix https// appears before the web address (URL) (the ‘s’ means that it is protected by security protocols). Check also that the small padlock next to the URL is green. The URL of your bank’s website must also be preceded by a padlock. If there is no padlock, do not make any payments as your bank details risk being stolen.
  • If you receive emails containing files from an unknown sender, NEVER open them. Do not click on any links and do not reply.
  • If you receive unsolicited promotional emails, you can unsubscribe. Companies do not have the right to contact individuals without their consent, so it could be a scam. The links to unsubscribe are generally found in the email.
  • Be wary if you are asked for donations as scammers sometimes pose as charities. You should always ask them to clearly prove their own identity and that of the charity they represent. Be wary if an unknown person contacts you online and asks for personal information. Pay attention to the information you share.

 (i) Useful websites: [Only in French or Dutch] [Only in French or German] [Only in Italian]

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