What can be Unsafe Online?

It’s easy to find fun things on the internet. But some of these things can be harmful to you online and in real life, so it’s good to be aware of the risks.

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Sometimes, your online or virtual interactions may want to continue into the real world. More and more people are meeting up with someone they met online to buy second-hand items, connect with a new friend or to go on a date. If possible, your online interactions should stay in the virtual world, but if you need to meet someone, here are some tips for a safe (and successful) online meetup.

  • Plan your meet-up. If you’re buying something from someone, choose a busy, well-lit public location to meet – shopping areas, police stations, restaurants or other similar areas. If the person you’re meeting is unable to find you, choose another busy, well-lit area to meet. If you’re going on a date or meeting a friend, it’s useful to choose a few of these areas in case you want to leave your first choice and go somewhere else.
  • Let others know where you are going and when. It’s a good idea to bring a trusted friend or family member with you. This may work when you meet someone to buy or sell something but may not work at other times. You probably wouldn’t bring a family member or friend with you on your first date with someone you met online. In this case, let someone (or more than one person) know where you’re going and when you’ll be home. You can also turn on location services on your cell phone and share it with someone you trust.
  • Be in control of what’s going on. If you’re meeting up with a person to buy or sell something, it’s important to know what you’re paying for and how you’re paying for it. They will most likely want cash, so it’s best to have only the exact amount with you. If you have other cash on you, keep it in a different pocket so they can’t trick you with a last minute change in the price. For friendly or romantic situations, it can be more complicated. Don’t get into a vehicle with someone you don’t know. Don’t be afraid to say no if you’re not comfortable with who you’re with or where you’re going.
  • Have an exit strategy. Sometimes, even with careful planning something may happen and you need to get out of a situation. If this happens, it’s helpful to have someone you trust and who knows where you are so they can come get you, or meet you in a safe area. Always bring extra money for a cab or transit ride home. Make sure your phone is fully charged before you go out. Think about bringing an extra charging pack so you’re always able to contact somebody.

Online Scams and Fraud


You’ve probably heard of online scams before, but it’s one of the things that make the internet so dangerous. A scam is any fake business or scheme that takes money, personal information or other goods from an unsuspecting person. Online scams are very clever at seeming real, so it’s important to know how to recognize them and keep yourself safe. Try to stay on websites with a secure connection. You can tell if you’re on a secure connection by checking the address bar to see if there is a padlock (see below). You’ll see it on the most updated versions of common browsers such as Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari and Opera.

Some ways to help spot a scam are:

  1. The email or message is from someone you don’t know and it comes from a strange email address or from a free email provider like Gmail.
  2. The message promises something too good to be true like a prize from a contest you never entered or money.
  3. The message asks you for personal information.
  4. If the message is business related, then it may ask you to buy or invest quickly.

Often people pretend to be someone else on the internet. They may say they are a representative from a company that you know, or pretend to be a friend or family member to try to gain your trust. If it seems suspicious, then it probably is. Trust your instincts.

If you find yourself on a site that may be trying to scam you, leave the site immediately. If the scammer says they are from your bank or the government, you can call your bank or look on the government website to see what official government communication would contain. If you think you’re the victim of a scam, you can report the incident to local police or contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

Viral News and Challenges


Viral content often stands out, spreads widely and rapidly. It’s hard to know what might go viral – songs, pictures, videos, news articles or challenges. If you make online content, like a Youtuber or a blogger, going viral might be what makes you popular online, but you should be cautious if you plan on participating in some of these trends.

When you see something online, read a news article or watch a news clip, it’s important to know how to spot if it’s genuine or if it’s fake news. Being able to think critically about what’s in front of you is a great skill to have.

Viral video challenges have also grown in popularity since the rise of Youtube, Imgur, Reddit and other online sharing sites. These videos typically “challenge” people to do something and then pass on the challenge to someone else at the end of the video. If you plan on joining in on a viral video challenge, you should consider any risks involved with it and do your research before participating. Sometimes, a viral video could be supporting a good cause, like the Ice Bucket Challenge, and others are for entertainment like the Cinnamon Challenge, but both can be very dangerous. Before filming you should think about the following:

  1. Did I look up any health or other risks related to this challenge?
  2. Do I want to do this, or do I feel forced to do it?
  3. If I decide to do this challenge, am I able get any required medical care if I need it?

If your answer is “No” to any of these questions, you should reconsider your filming process and maybe think of a new video idea. Going viral is not worth any risk to your health or well-being.

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