Internet Safety

As the internet becomes an integral part of life for many of us, it can also be a treasure trove of information for criminals to take advantage of you. Below are some tips and resources to best protect yourself on the world wide web:

1. Do Your Research

  • Search your name (and combinations of your other personal information) into various search engines to see what you can find out about yourself.
    • Tip: Examples of personal information: first name, last name, date of birth, hometown, current address, phone number.
  • Take note of websites that have information you want removed. Contact each website's administrator and request that they remove your information from their website.

2. Know Your Presence on Social Media

  • Make a list of websites where you have (or have ever had) accounts online (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, etc.). Dormant social media accounts can be easy targets for criminals seeking information about you.
  • Check the security and privacy settings to make sure that you are comfortable with what is publicly available.
    • Tip: Many social media sites allow you to view your profile as if you were a member of the public. Use that functionality to make sure you have your privacy settings adjusted correctly.
    • Tip: Social media sites change their security and privacy settings often. Set a reminder to check back on these sites regularly to update your setting preferences. 

3. Set Alarms

  • Just like you would set a home security system, set alarms to make sure you’re notified of any online privacy intrusion.
    • Tip: If you sign up for Google Alerts, you can be notified anytime Google finds a new result for your name (or other terms you request to be notified about).
    • Tip: Regularly monitor your credit report for any changes that you may not be aware of (for example: new accounts or loans).
    • Tip: Consider services that offer credit and identity fraud protection for added peace of mind.

4. Strengthen Passwords

  • Enable multi-factor authentication when websites support it. This requires another ‘factor’ (such as a pin code sent to your cell phone) in addition to your username and password in order to successfully log into an account.
  • Check the strength of your passwords, and never use the same password for multiple websites.
    • Tip: When choosing passwords, avoid using words in the dictionary or any personal information. Instead, use a combination of numbers, punctuation, and a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters. Click here to see how strong your password is.

5. Remain Vigilant

  • Keep an eye on your digital footprint and always ask yourself – “Do I really want this to be online?”
  • If you want to "remove" yourself from the internet, there are guides and paid services that can help you with that.
  • If you are concerned, need more information, or find that someone is using information against you, we are here to help. Call GWPD’s Office of Victim Services at (202) 994-0443.

Additional Resources

  • Stay Secure Online (a product of the NPCC) is a guide originally developed for law enforcement officers in the United Kingdom, but its usefulness is worldwide. It shows readers step-by-step instructions on how to enhance privacy and security settings through various prominent social media applications and websites.
  • OSINT Search Tool will search various search engines at the click of a button.

Contact the GWPD Office of Victims' Services