Western Cape Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  28 Aug 2014

INFOTECH: Becoming E-Safety Conscious


Recent Western Cape Business News

The Internet is becoming more accessible to the average South African, but there are a lot of mistakes that new users are making that could prove to be dangerous. “The Internet is becoming essential for us,” says Claire Cobbledick, Head of Marketing for Gumtree South Africa. “We use it for job hunting, socialising and information. But we need to employ the same street smarts we have in the physical world as we do in the online world. When you are sitting behind a screen in an Internet café or in the safety of your own home, it’s easy to forget that you are actually interacting with the world at large and need to be careful with the data that you are sharing.”

Don’t post sensitive information on public forums like Facebook

One of the biggest concerns would be individuals posting information – such as their identity numbers, phone numbers, and addresses on public Facebook pages. “We often see individuals do this with the Gumtree page. This is mostly individuals requesting a job or responding to another posting sharing a job ad. We really want to encourage them not to do that,” says Cobbledick. “Depending on your privacy settings, you can actually post information on Facebook that is only visible to your friends and people that you know – although it isn’t recommended, either. However, if you post your information on a public site (such as a fan page or a company site) anyone can see it and that could be dangerous.”

Cobbledick advises users to only apply to job adverts via Gumtree itself, or to create a “jobs wanted” profile. “That way you aren’t giving away too much information about yourself. You can create a separate email address and the messages sent won’t be seen by the public.”

You can complain on social media, but exercise caution

“Social media is often the place where you would go to voice your opinion or to alert companies about technical issues or bad service. Most companies, including ours, monitor these pages for that very reason,” says Cobbledick. “But again, if you need to relay sensitive information to these companies, it’s best to do so via a private direct message, an email or a live chat so that your details are kept private.”

 Sensitive information includes details such as your bank account number, your ID number, address, company account number and contact details. “Don’t reveal sensitive information unless you are 100% sure you are speaking to a company representative and that they actually need that information to resolve your query. Some information should never be shared - passwords and pin numbers, for example.”

Exchanging money (do’s and don’ts)

The Internet is a great place to make extra money or pick up bargains, but one has to be careful. “You need to treat online interactions the same way you treat offline interactions,” says Cobbledick. “You wouldn’t hand over money until you’ve received the goods in a shop, and you shouldn’t do it online. Similarly, if you’ve sold something online, do not hand over your goods until the money reflects in your account as having cleared. A very common complaint is that individuals receive proof of payment and hand over the goods, only to have the payment reversed after the exchange. It’s a fairly easy trick – individuals pay via a cheque deposit, which triggers a proof of payment notice. The cheque takes two weeks to clear, though, so the trickster simply cancels the cheque after they’ve received the goods.”

Practice the best practise

“If you are new to the Internet, make sure that you familiarise yourself with online best practises,” advises Cobbledick. “Learn about privacy settings, scams, and how to go about reaching goal in a responsible manner. There are free resource centres online that can teach you about job hunting more safely, for instance,” says Cobbledick. “These tips are there to help you draw the full benefit of the online world. A few simple precautions will allow you to make extra money, find work, find information and have a lot of fun!”

Cobbledick says that the more information we have about interacting safely, the better. “The Internet opens up a whole new world, and it’s an essential one,” she says. “The more you know, the more confident you’ll be.”


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