How to tell whether a website is safe to use

By | October 1, 2009
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In Computers One Step at a Time this time:


  • The Inner Circle – now full
  • How to tell whether a website is safe to use
  • Capitals in web and email address – the one time they matter
  • What one reader of this newsletter has done



It’s been a busy few weeks here but I’ve managed to find time to sit down with a cuppa and dash out this email for you. Hopefully I’ve fixed any typing mistakes…

The Inner Circle, which I announced a couple of weeks ago is now full. All 500 places are taken – it filled up in a week and a day. So if you were interested but didn’t join then I’m afraid you’ve missed out. But what you can do is sign up to a waiting list. It doesn’t commit you to anything but it means that in the future if I open up any more places (or if anyone leaves for any reason), you’ll be the first to know about the places.

You can read about the Inner Circle here: or add yourself to the waiting list here:

If you’ve already joined, I hope you’re enjoying it – I know lots of you have already told me how useful you’re finding it!

Anyway, on with the newsletter…

How to tell whether a web site is safe to use
You hear all about viruses, spyware and the like nowadays. And I’ve talked lots about how you should have an anti-virus program to keep yourself protected. But there are other nasties – websites that look like a shop but will actually just bill your credit card and never send you anything.

OK, your credit card company will sort out any problems if it happens to you. But it’s better not to let it happen in the first place. How do you know which websites are genuine?

Well, there are two websites that act as a kind of rating for other websites.

One is and the other is

On either, you go to the site, type in the web address of the website you’re not sure about (on mywot it’s into the box in the top right, on siteadvisor it’s middle right) and it gives you a report.

For example, type into siteadvisor and you’ll find out first of all that the site is safe to use and has lots of users. You’ll see it has no major “annoyances” (eg popups that cover your screen) and if you scroll to the bottom you can see that the majority of people have had good shopping experiences there – one or two haven’t, so it’s not perfect but it’s pretty good.

Those comments at the bottom are from people like you who’ve used a site – so if you ever find a site that’s dodgy or that gives really bad service, here’s where you can get revenge… or at least help other people avoid it. You have to sign up (it doesn’t cost anything) to leave a comment but if you want to spread the word about a bad site (or a good one!) you can do it here.

So if you want to use a website but aren’t sure whether it’s safe, nip onto one of siteadvisor or mywot (or both to be extra safe) and see what they say about the site you’re thinking of using.

By the way, it’s also possible to download an add-on to Internet Explorer that automatically does this when you use a search like Google – it checks all the results you come up with. You can download either the siteadvisor or the mywot one for free from the same page where you type a web address into them. AVG also have a similar thing – it comes with AVG 8.5 though you might have it turned off – it’s called link scanner and when you do a Google search it put a green tick next to websites that are all right.

Capitals in email addresses
I tend to get a lot of people telling me their email address. Whether it’s someone spelling it out so I can send them this newsletter, someone from the local drama group wanting to be sent the details of the next meeting or BT giving me yet another email address to try contacting them on – I hear a lot of people reading out email addresses.

And there’s one thing that 90% of them have in common. Nearly everyone says “all lower case” or “or in small letter” after they’ve given it to you. I’ve done it myself. Sometimes if you’re giving your email address, people will even ask “Is that all in small letters?”

But they don’t need to. In fact if your email address is [email protected] you could equally send an email to [email protected] or even [email protected] and it would still work.

So you can just put them in however you like.

The same is nearly true for web addresses. and WWW.HELPFULBOOKS.CO.UK or even WwW.hElPfUlBoOkS.Co.Uk will all work the same. The only time it doesn’t work is if there’s something after the slash – for example:

You could use capitals in the bit but not in the books.htm bit – that needs to stay in the case it’s in.

Readers of this newsletter use computers for all sorts of things – from writing books to just checking emails. But also…
I recently had an email from one reader, Carole, who has been involved in setting up a charity called “Hope in Art” to raise money for some of the smaller African charities by selling paintings and other art. In particular, they’re directing the money towards helping children in Africa – improving health facilities and education. Whether you’re an artist yourself (there are cash prizes for pictures voted to be the best), whether you might be interested in buying a painting, or if you’re just curious, you can have a look at the website at: . They start accepting submissions today.

Well, I’ve finished my cuppa and that’s it for this time. Have a good couple of weeks!


Tim Wakeling

All the above © Tim Wakeling 2009

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