As COVID-19 spread across the globe, it was evident that strong measures would need to be taken to help slow the rate of infection so as to not overwhelm the health systems. Schools shifted to remote learning, nonessential workers were asked to work remotely and families were told to engage in internet-based chats in lieu of in-person gatherings. Staying home dramatically increased reliance on the internet. Heightened use of the internet and digital products puts users at risk when they go online. Brandongaille Small Business & Marketing Advice offers that 82 percent of predators use social networking sites to target victims by learning about them. In addition, many identity theft crimes are perpetrated online.

The following are a handful of ways people can stay safe as they rely on the internet more and more.

• Limit the information you share. Children and adults should limit how much personal information they share online. Do not share bank account numbers, birth dates, addresses, and other information readily — especially on unsecured sites.

• Utilize private browsers. It’s possible to set browsers to private mode and lock down social media accounts to offer the bare minimum of information to the public. However, even with such precautions, websites and applications may be collecting information and using it for marketing purposes. Law enforcement, website administrators and even hackers may be able to access private information, according to the computer security company Norton.

• Take note of your surroundings. People who engage in video chats or share images online should be aware of their immediate surroundings. Do items in the house in view of the camera give indication of personal identity details? Are there any embarrassing or inappropriate belongings in view? Check reflections in windows and mirrors to make sure that others in the house are not inadvertently showing up online as well. Consider limiting video or photo use in bedrooms, especially for children.

• Be careful of attachments. Exercise caution when downloading attachments from unknown sources through social media, chat rooms or email. Do not click on unrecognizable links, which could be harboring viruses that steal data.

• Use only a secure internet connection. Always use a secure internet connection when sharing important data, such as credit card numbers or banking information. Password protect all Wi-Fi networks.

These are some ways to stay safe as internet activity increases in the wake of social distancing mandates.