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Can the internet be a place where we can roam safely, where conversations are civil and constructive; where people can disagree without being disagreeable; where words are uplifting and encouraging; where people can come together to make the world a better place? A better internet starts with you. And it starts here.

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Digital footprints

Your digital footprint is everything in the digital world that is about you.

1. What are examples of digital footprints?

  • Your search history
  • Text messages, including deleted messages
  • Photos and videos, including deleted ones
  • Tagged photos, even those you never wanted online
  • Likes/loves on sites like Facebook and Instagram
  • Browser history, even when you were on ‘Incognito’ mode

2. Why does my digital footprint matter?

  • Once information is online, it can be difficult (or impossible) to remove
  • Your digital footprint determines their digital reputation, which is now as important as your offline reputation
  • Words and photos can be easily misinterpreted and altered, causing unintentional insult
  • Content intended for a private group can easily spread to a broader circle, hurting relationships and friendships
  • Most employers check their potential employees’ digital footprints before hiring them

3. What can I do to leave better digital footprints?

  • Stop and think before you post, forward, or reply to something
  • Remember that you are responsible for what you say about and to others
  • Set your settings on social media sites to ‘Private’, and check and update this regularly
  • Check the content you are being tagged in, and remove those that are offensive or inappropriate

To leave less digital footprints, you can use encrypted, privacy-friendly app alternatives such as Signal, Telegram, and Wire. However, this does not mean that you can say whatever you want online.


 

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Fake news

Fake news is any information that is deliberately or accidentally false, often published with the intention of misleading the public, damaging an entity, or gaining financially.

1. What are examples of fake news?

  • Satire, funny stories based off some truth, that are then spread as the truth
  • News alleging negative things about someone’s character
  • Advertisements trying to gain profit by lying about their costs

2. Why is it dangerous to spread fake news?

  • Public panic may be caused
  • Resources are wasted as the authorities check the validity of claims
  • Reputations are hurt when false allegations are made

3. How can I spot fake news?

  • Check the source: try find your news from credible sources that have a good reputation, not just through your friends or social media
  • Look at the About Us or Contact Us pages: fake websites often don’t have these pages, or have very little helpful information on them
  • Confirm with other reliable sources: check other news sites to see if the same story is running on multiple credible sources
  • Go to the experts: websites such as Snopes and FactCheck have teams who verify whether popular news stories are true or fake, and locally, we have Factually and AskST to check the truth of Singapore-based information

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Online Harassment

Online Harassment is online behaviour that goes out of the way to cause trouble for a person by threatening or humiliating them, and can have serious social, psychological, or even physical consequences for the victim.

1. What are examples of online harassment?

  • Posting defamatory or derogatory online statements for the purpose of hurting or humiliating a person, such as by targeting their appearance, religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.
  • Creating and sharing false information about a person for the purpose of ruining their reputation, such as by making false allegations about a person on social media.
  • Sharing personal information about a person online, such as sharing their contact details with lewd comments in a forum or chatroom so that the victim receives unwanted attention from strangers
  • Sending offensive or obscene material, such as explicit messages to a person or their friends.
  • Sharing intimate or sexual messages, photos, or videos online without consent, to shame a person.
  • Encouraging a vulnerable person to self-harm or commit suicide.

2. I am being harassed online. What can I do?

  • Report the harasser to the social media site or mobile service: if they find a different platform from which to approach you, or use a different number, continue to report them.
  • Keep all information providing evidence of the harassment: take screenshots as the service provider might remove flagged content and the harasser might delete the evidence
  • Do not respond to the harasser.
  • Create safe spaces for yourself: if possible, try to have physical spaces or times of the day where you can distance yourself from digital devices and create a space where you will not face harassment, for example, not using your devices at night.
  • Talk to someone you trust: tell your partner, a friend, or a counsellor about what is happening.
  • Create a support system: tell friends and family members who can support you online and make you feel safe in your daily life.
  • Contact the authorities: consider involving law enforcement or a lawyer. Most forms of severe online harassment are illegal in Singapore under the Protection from Harassment Act, and if you have been sexually harassed, you can contact the Sexual Assault Care Centre.

3. There is a threat to my safety

  • Call the local police if you feel:
  • There are threats to your safety
  • There are threats to visit you, your family members, or friends
  • There are threats to hurt you, your family members, or friends

 

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Online Scams

There are many types of scams that have grown in popularity online, and it is important to know them to keep you and your family safe online.

1. Fake receipt scams

This scam involves receiving a receipt for a good or service that you haven’t asked for. It could either be a printed invoice sent to your home, or an email that looks like it came from a real business. For example, an email claiming that you made a Netflix subscription using your Apple account. When you click the link to verify it, you enter your Apple account details into a fake site, at which point they have access to your account.

How can I spot a fake receipt scam?

  • Be careful of receipts: Always confirm that the goods or services have been requested and received before paying
  • Check the details: check the account details of the supplier to make sure they are the authorised ones, and check the email addresses to make sure the sender is authentic
  • Call the supplier: do not use any contact numbers provided in the receipt, but find the original number through the organisation’s Contact Us page online

I have been scammed. What can I do?

  • If they have your passwords, change your passwords for all affected platforms immediately
  • If they have your card details, contact your bank immediately and make a police report using the receipt as evidence

2. Cold Call Scams

Although this is technically not an online scam, it is one of the most common scams in Singapore. Cold call scammers contact you on your home or mobile phone and try to sell you fake products, or pretend to be from a government agency. Their goal is to get either personal information or money from you.

How can I spot a cold call scam?

  • The call will be unexpected
  • Depending on the type of scam, the caller may be friendly or intimidating, e.g., if they are claiming you have not paid a bill, they might use scare tactics
  • They may know some details about you, usually sourced through your social media
  • They may ask you to pay a fee before you receive your product, e.g., they may claim that your parcel will not be released until you have paid a ‘tax’
  • They often pressure you into making a quick decision

What can I do if I get a cold call scam?

  • Say “no, thank you” and hang up the phone: don’t just say “I’m busy now” or they might take that as invitation to ask when you’re free and call again
  • Do not try to ‘trick’ the scammer or tell them off: they may continue to harass you
  • If you are unsure whether the call is from a scammer or a real organisation, hang up and call the organisation using their official contact number: search online for the official contact number instead of using any number they provide you as that could be fake as well
  • Save any messages they sent you online: take screenshots of all messages and save it before they can delete them for evidence

I have given my information/money. What can I do?

  • If they have your passwords, change your passwords for all affected platforms immediately
  • If you have sent money or given your card details, contact your bank immediately and make a police report using the collected evidence

Calls or SMSes relating to loans, financial assistance and online gambling

You may receive unsolicited calls or SMSes from unknown sources offering loans or financial assistance, or inviting you to gamble online. Such calls and SMSes are likely to be associated with unlicensed moneylending and illegal gambling activities, which are serious criminal offences in Singapore. 

What should I do if I receive an unsolicited call or SMS relating to loans, financial assistance or online gambling from an unknown source?

Do not reply to such call or SMS. Do not interact in any way.

  • Notify the Police directly by:
    • Lodging a Police Report;
    • Calling the National Crime Prevention Council’s ‘X Ah Long’ hotline at 1800-924-5664 (1800-X-AH-LONG); or
    • Providing information via i-Witness.

3. Phishing scams

Similar to the cold call scam, phishing is when a scammer tries to get personal information from a person. The name comes from ‘fishing’ – scammers are using email or phone ‘bait’ to ‘fish’ for personal information amongst a huge ‘sea’ of people online.

What are examples of phishing scams?

  • Impersonating a real organisation or person: the scammer sends an email with the branding and logos of a real organisation, and asks you to fill out a form, complete a survey, make a payment, or some other request that would require you to provide your personal information
  • Making a personal request: the email might look very personalised, e.g., claiming that a distant relative passed away and left you a fortune

[Personal information may include your full name, NRIC or passport number, personal mobile telephone number, credit card information, residential address, and even account passwords.]

How can I spot a phishing scam?

These emails can be difficult to spot – some are obvious while others are not. In fact, some scammers make their emails less reliable on purpose (think of the spelling mistakes riddling the Nigerian prince’s plea for cash) so as to attract only the most gullible ‘fish’.

Here are some things to watch out for:

  • Check the ‘from’ email address: remember that all official government email addresses end in ‘.gov.sg’
  • Look out for spelling or grammar mistakes, or poor graphics
  • Be careful of emails that look official but do not address you by name
  • Emails that list threats of dire consequences if you do not respond 
  • Promises of attractive rewards if you reply or click on the provided URL 
  • Different URLs displayed when you hover your mouse over the links in the email 
  • Requests to open file attachments (e.g. exe, zip file)

I have received a phishing email. What can I do?

  • Do not reply to the email
  •  Report the email to the platform
  • If the email is pretending to be from a real organisation, you can forward it to the real organisation to alert them. This will help to keep others safe

 

 

4. Unwanted and unintended subscriptions or trials

On website or via mobile messages or applications, you might be offered a cheap or free trial for a service ( e.g. unlimited access of games and videos) for a limited period, and offered a full refund if you are not satisfied at the end of the free trial period. The sign-up process often involves a credit card number, or may be billed directly to your mobile phone subscription. You will be signed up to an ongoing subscription without realising it, or you will know but intend to unsubscribe before the payment begins. Thereafter, you will be automatically charged the subscription fee monthly and find that you are unable to cancel the subscription.

How can I avoid being scammed?

  • Search online for reviews of the business: almost every site has feedback online on how reliable their (un)subscription services are
  • Be careful of who you give credit card details too: it is quite common for these companies to switch from the free subscription to the premium version without informing you
  • Check the terms and conditions: this gives you information on how long the free subscription lasts and your ability to cancel
  • Set a reminder for when your free trial ends: remember to cancel your subscription before the trial period runs out
  • Switch to a direct debit: check if you can pay the subscription using a direct debit instead of a recurring charge on your card, as you can cancel a direct debit directly with your bank
  • Review your monthly bank or card statements: be aware of how much you are paying for your subscriptions so that you are aware of any unexpected price changes
  • If you aren’t sure, don’t sign up: if you cannot be sure that the site is reputable and that you will be able to stop paying when you wish, don’t start
  • If you have already started the subscription process and intend to stop, simply exit or close the page. Do not rush to click on the buttons as you may end up signing up for the service. 

I have already signed up. What can I do?

  • Call the company: you might be on hold for a very long time, but speaking to the staff of the service is often the easiest way to cancel a subscription
  • Email the company: email the company to ask them to cancel your subscription, which is useful as proof that you have asked them to cancel your subscription
  • You may also approach your mobile provider if the service is billed through your mobile subscription and you are unable to contact the company providing the service. 
  • Contact your bank: if the charge continues, you can try to contact your bank with evidence you have tried to cancel the subscription but have not been successful
  • Cancel your card: to automatically bounce any payments made to the card, call your bank, cancel your card, and request a new one

5. Webcam blackmail and sextortion

Sextortion is an increasingly popular way to blackmail people online. If you make friends through a dating app or a social media site, you could be lured into sending sexually explicit photos or engaging in sexual activities over video chat. The scammer then tells you that they will send the photos or videos to your family/colleagues or release it to the public unless a ransom is paid. The BBC has made a video of their investigation of these blackmailers, who are often organised criminal gangs operating in foreign countries.

How can I avoid sextortion?

  • Be wary of friend requests from people that you do not know
  • Be careful speaking to people whom you don’t know personally
  • Do not trust people you do not know well with photos or videos of yourself, especially ones that could later be used to blackmail you
  • Know that even video chats and Snapchats between two people can be recorded
  • This might seem like a joke, but try to keep your clothes on when video chatting with people you’ve recently met

I am being blackmailed. What can I do?

  • Do not pay the ransom or respond: paying the ransom often leads to more threats and requests for money and many blackmailers often publish the videos and photos even after money is paid
  • If you are connected to the blackmailer through any social media, your phone, or video chats like Skype, unfriend and block them, then deactivate your account
  • Report the accounts being used to the platform itself, e.g., report the blackmailer to Facebook and Skype separately
  • Report the incident to the police
  • Talk to someone you trust, like a family member or friend, for support in this emotionally distressing time

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Protecting personal information

Personal information is anything that can be used to identify you in real life.

1. What are examples of personal information?

  • Full name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Photos
  • Date of birth
  • NRIC number
  • School
  • Email address

 

2. When might I share personal information?

There are several activities online which require some disclosure of your personal information, including:

  • Registering: signing up for sites often requires a name and email address, but you may sometimes be asked for your gender, date of birth, and more, but a red asterisk (*) often marks out the fields you must enter to register
  • Shopping: sites may ask for further details to verify your identity, process payments, and make deliveries
  • Contests: these often require you to share extensive personal information, including your interests, which are then used by sellers to promote their goods or services.

3. How can I protect my personal information?

  • Only use secure websites when sharing personal, and especially financial, information: look at the URL bar and check that it begins with https:// and has a ‘locked’ padlock symbol on the left, which indicates that your data is encrypted
  • Make sure that the websites are authentic by checking the URL address: there are many fake government websites trying to get your NRIC or passport number, and fake banking websites trying to get your financial information
  • Read user agreements and privacy policies: try not to give your email address to organisations that sell your information so as to prevent spam emails from flooding your inbox
  • Never share your password with anyone
  • Use a different password for each online account, and change them regularly
  • Set a strong password, which are more than 8 characters long, and include numbers, symbols, and both lowercase and uppercase letters. Here is how you can create a strong password:
    •  Think of a sentence with at least 8 words (Jack and Jill went up the hill)
    • Take the first letter of each word (jajwuth)
    • Change some letters to uppercase (JajwUth)
    • Change some letters to symbols (J&jwUth)
    • Add some numbers (J&jwUth2)

 

4. Someone has used my information. What can I do?

  • If someone has stolen your card details, contact your bank to cancel your card and ask them to issue you a new one
  • If someone has stolen your bank details and stolen money, contact your bank and the police to report the theft, and your bank can advise you on your options
  • If someone has stolen your password, change it on all affected platforms immediately
  • If you are constantly receiving spam emails, try to block the senders of the emails, but if the problem persists, you may have to create a new email address
  • If someone has used your personal information to harm you – such as by stealing your identity, or threatening to visit and harm you or your family – contact the authorities at 999

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Screen time management

Screen time is the amount of time spent on digital devices and media for fun.

1. How much screen time is too much?

As adults, we should not need someone to tell us how much time we should spend online or on our devices. But it is important stay aware of how much time you’re spending online, and the impact this has on both your work life – making sure that your work is not suffering – and your social life – making sure that your relationships with your friends and family are not being impacted. If any of these areas are being affected, then you probably need to cut back on how much time you spend online.

2. What are the effects of too much screen time?

  • Headaches
  •  Eye strain
  • Being unable to sleep restfully every night
  • Constantly talking about something from your online life, such as a game or website
  • Thinking that your online activities and friends are more important than anything else
  • Disconnecting from the ‘real world’ and losing touch with your friends and family
  • Work suffering, e.g., constantly being late to work, missing deadlines, submitting work with many errors

This does not mean there are no benefits to having screen time. There are websites, games, and apps that can help you meditate, gain literary skills, test your problem-solving skills, and more. However, the key is to find a good balance between your online and offline life and practice good self-control.

3. What can I do to reduce my screen time use?

  • Be aware of how much time you spend on your phone: apps like Moment can help you track your online usage – not only might the numbers shock you into cutting down your time online, but the app lets you set daily limits on yourself with notifications if you go over them
  • Keep yourself busy with other activities that do not rely on digital devices, such as active sports, playing a musical instrument, or reading a book (but not on your Kindle!)
  • Have specific times of day where you, and your family members, put down your devices, such as during meal times or for an hour before you go to sleep