With millions of people now having to work from home there's been a lot of speculation about whether the UK's broadband infrastructure will be able to handle a massive surge in demand.
Well don't worry, because the expectation is that it can. That's the word from BT, who say they've got "more than enough capacity…to handle mass-scale home-working in response to COVID-19".
Last week, the company shared some data to demonstrate just how well their network was able to cope with higher levels of usage. They showed that in the previous week a couple of major video game releases and Champions League football had combined to hit new record levels of traffic for BT - to the tune of 17.5 terabits per second (Tbps) - without the network buckling under the strain.
The increase in home working meanwhile, has seen daytime traffic increase by as much as 60%, but still remains well below the record at around 7.5Tbps. Of course, with schools now closed, it's likely that traffic will go up further during the day, but the industry is confident that it will be able to handle it.
Our own speed test data, compiled from thousands of speed tests each month, supports the view that broadband connections aren't slowing down as well. We pulled the average home broadband speed results from the middle of February, and they were 44Mbps. The period between the 8th and the 14th of March saw average speeds of 43.9Mbps, while between the 15th to the 23rd of March, average speeds were 44.7Mbps. The speed differences displayed are of no real significance, and we're happy that people shouldn't be seeing any negative impact on their connection, despite the current change in UK working arrangements.
To help things along, TV streaming companies have agreed temporary measures to slash the amount of data they use by as much as a quarter. Netflix, Amazon and Disney+ are streaming their content at a lower bitrate, while YouTube now defaults to an SD stream - although you can still manually set videos to play at a higher resolution if you want to. The BBC also seems likely to make a change in the not too distant future.
Will you notice the difference? Possibly not, although it depends what you're watching. Streaming at a lower bitrate means that the video is more heavily compressed. With the way video compression works it's more noticeable in busy scenes with lots of fast movement, where the image may become blocky or distorted. In slower scenes, you'll have to look pretty closely to see any effect.
As for streaming in SD, as with YouTube, that might not look great if you watch on a massive 4K telly, but for viewing on a smaller screen like a tablet it should be just fine.
How to pause your Sky Sports and BT Sport subscriptions
In other news, Sky and BT have taken the decision to allow customers to pause their sports channel subscriptions for as long as there's no actual sport taking place. You can do this at sky.com/pausesport or at bt.com/tv. Unfortunately, you can't pause these channels if you've got them through Virgin Media.
BT have removed data caps on all their broadband products. This won't affect most people, since most of their plans are already unlimited. But if you're on an older deal you'll no longer have to worry about managing your usage.
And lots of broadband providers have issued statements to explain their COVID-19 plans, including what happens if you need a callout from a technician to solve a problem. You should have received this via email, but if you haven't you can read them online from BT, Sky, Virgin Media, EE, Vodafone and Plusnet.
Vodafone home broadband have once again topped industry watchdog Ofcom's list of shame as the most complained about of the 8 biggest broadband suppliers. By contrast, EE and Sky have shared the glory as the least complained-about providers.
Ofcom complaint figures for the 3rd quarter of last year show that Vodafone garnered 26 complaints per every 100,000 customers between July and September 2019. This was an improvement on the 30 per 100,000 they hit in the previous quarter, but was still close to double the industry average. Almost 4 in 10 of the grievances related to faults and service issues.
In a difficult period, Vodafone also topped the chart for the most landline complaints (18 per 100,000) and were joint top for mobile (7 per 100,000, with Virgin Mobile).
Of the rest of the Big Eight, Plusnet, TalkTalk and Virgin Media also generated an above average number of complaints. At the end of 2018 Plusnet were by far the most complained about provider with a whopping 43 complaits per 100,000 subscribers, but they have improved every quarter since and are now equal to TalkTalk. Meanwhile Virgin Media saw the biggest rise in complaints across 2019, having started at 10 per 100,000 in the first quarter. Across the board, the main causes of the gripes were complaints handling (32%), faults and service issues (31%), and billing problems (20%).
Meanwhile, EE and Sky were shown to be the Big Eight providers that left their users feeling happiest. Their 5 complaints each per 100,000 customers was nearly two-thirds less than the overall industry average and less than a fifth of the complaint levels received by Vodafone Home Broadband.
Here's the full rundown of the Big Eight's broadband complaints per every 100,000 customers:
Ofcom's Telecoms and Pay TV Complaints report is released quarterly, and covers providers with a market share of over 1.5%. It counts complaints received by the regulator, but doesn't include those sent directly to the provider or any other body.
The report also covers landline (worst performer: Vodafone; best performer: EE), mobile (worst: Vodafone and Virgin Media; best: Tesco Mobile), and pay TV services (worst: Virgin Media; best: Sky).
How to compare smaller broadband providers
Ofcom's research comes in very handy when you're shopping for a new broadband provider, as it gives you a good overview of the general performance of each company. But it does exclude the smaller providers who often offer interesting services, such as the no-contract deals from NOW Broadband or the near-gigabit internet from Hyperoptic.
So what can you do if you're considering one of these companies? Our broadband listings measure overall user satisfaction levels for each provider, as well as their performance on customer service, speed and reliability issues. You can see their most recent ratings or a historic figure for all time, allowing you to judge whether their performance has worsened over time. Zen Broadband currently top our rankings.
Along with the ratings we've got over 20,000 user reviews across all the providers. It gives you an unmatched insight into the kind of experience you'll get with each company, and what issues you may or may not have with them.
You can see all the scores on our Broadband Reviews page, and just click through to read the feedback for each broadband. We'd also encourage you to leave a rating and review of your own, even if you have no complaints. The more information we share, the easier it becomes to choose the right broadband provider.
The Premier League is back, and there are more ways than ever to catch the action. Pick the wrong ones, though, and you could end up paying the best part of a grand for the privilege. Shop around, and there are savings to be had.
Let's look at the cheapest ways to watch the new Premier League season.
Sky Sports is the self-styled home of football, and Sky have the rights to by far the most games. They'll show 128 in the 2019/20 season, across Friday nights, Saturday evenings, Saturday nights, Sunday afternoons and Monday nights. They get the first pick from all the games from each round, so this is where you'll catch the big derbies and the title deciders.
But Sky Sports isn't cheap. Although it actually only costs £18 a month, you can't get it from Sky TV as a standalone service. You need to take Sky Entertainment, too, which bumps up the price to over £40. Plus you need a dish, and a Sky Q box (with optional UHD viewing), and have to pay any installation and setup fees. And it all comes with an 18-month contract.
The same goes for Virgin Media customers, you can't just sign up for Sky Sports Premier League, it has to be taken as part of an expensive bundle along with all the other Sports channels and a variety of other premium Entertainment channels. However, if you're already with Virgin Media, this could still make sense for you. Check out the latest Virgin Media Sports offers.
Alternatively, if you just want to watch on your phone, you can get the Sky Sports Mobile Month Pass for only £5.99 per month - you're limited to only one smartphone viewing at a time, but that's otherwise an unbeatably cheap way to access Sky Sports Premier League, and 4 other Sky Sports channels!
You can also get a cheap deal on the full Sky Sports Pass when you take it as part of a great value bundle with NOW Broadband. Just choose your preferred broadband plan and you can add the full Sky Sports package for only £20 a month for a year. That's 40% less than the full price. Even better, there's no contract on the TV side of the deal, so you can cancel whenever you want.
The NOW Broadband plans are very competitvely priced, ranking among the cheapest in the UK. They start at just £18 a month for the Brilliant Broadband service, with average speeds of 11Mb. Or if you'd prefer fibre you can get it for £25 or £30 depending on what speed you need. They're all on 12 month contracts as standard, or you can switch to a rolling contract by paying extra £60 upfront. Choose your NOW Broadband and Sky Sports Pass deal here.
If you don't fancy a broadband bundle and don't want to pay for a season ticket pass, you can take a standalone NOW TV Sky Sports Pass and get access to all 11 Sky Sports channels for £33.99 a month on a 30 day rolling deal. This undercuts the Sky Sports + Entertainment deal for Sky TV, and you can save more money by cancelling in June and July when there are no games.
Although the content's the same, the NOW TV experience isn't quite as good as what you get from Sky. There's no UHD, and HD resolution is currently pegged to 720p. You also can't record shows, though you can pause, rewind and watch on demand. For most, though, it should more than satisfy your hunger for the beautiful game.
As a streaming service you'll need to make sure your internet is fast enough to handle it. 4 to 5Mb should be enough for one device to stream 720p HD. If you need to upgrade, use our postcode checker to find the best and fastest broadband deals in your area.
This offer is available to new and existing customers. Take a look at the latest TalkTalk TV offers to see what takes your fancy.
Want BT Sport?
BT Sport have the rights to 32 matches on Saturday lunchtimes. BT get second pick of the games for 20 rounds, and fifth pick for the rest, so you might be more likely to get Watford's trip to Burnley than Liverpool vs Man City. They've also got all 20 games from two midweek rounds, and you get the Champions League and FA Cup among other things, too.
The big new signing for the season is Amazon, who'll be showing games through their Prime Video service. They've got the rights to an impressive 20 matches spread over a rather less impressive two rounds played on Boxing Day and another as yet unspecified bank holiday. With staggered kick off times you might be able to catch more three or four games in total, if you want. But on the whole we'd regard this as a nice addition to the whole Prime package rather than a reason to sign up on its own.
If you're not on Prime Video yet, Amazon will often offer free trials of Prime that can be easily cancelled. If there's a particular Prime Video exlusive game or games that you have to watch, your cheapest option may be strategically timing when you begin your trial membership in order to cover the most matches.
Is it better to get your broadband, TV and phone services as part of a single bundle from the same provider, or should you shop around for the best standalone deals?
Is it simply a question of convenience versus flexibility? And does one work out cheaper than the other?
Let's take a look.
What kind of bundles can you get?
There are three types of broadband bundle. Where providers offer more than one you might see them described as triple or quad-play providers.
Broadband and call bundles
Most broadband services need you to have a traditional phone line, the price of which will be included in your broadband bill. Many providers - even some of the smaller ones - make the most of this requirement by offering you a call plan as part of a bundle. You can add off-peak, Anytime or International calls for a few extra pounds a month. If you don't add a plan the price for any calls you make just gets added to your bill.
Even some providers who don't require a landline will still offer you call bundles, and that can work out cheaper even if you don't intend to use them. For example, Virgin Media's broadband with phone options are cheaper than just standalone broadband for the offer introductory period of. After this, it goes up by £2 a month, but you always have the option of ditching the phone portion at the end of your minumum contract, or some people might consider the extra £2 worth it for extra piece of mind in an emergency. Of course, this isn't always the case, as with Hyperoptic who charge more for a phone bundle than they do for a standalone product. But it's worth investigating to see whether a potential provider requires a landline or not, and if you can make a saving by getting calls bundled in.
Broadband and TV bundles
Broadband and TV bundles are the next most common types of deal. These are generally restricted to the bigger name providers like Sky or BT, and can give you access to premium TV channels that show Premier League football or the latest movies. But beware, they aren't all like this. Some TV bundles, such as the basic TalkTalk or Virgin TV deals, don't offer many more channels than you can get with Freeview. You get a set-top box that lets you record or pause shows, but doesn't include any pay TV channels unless you choose to upgrade. Take a look at our guide on the cheapest ways to get pay TV for the full lowdown.
Broadband and mobile bundles
The other type of deal you can get is a broadband and mobile bundle. Again, these are rarer. Your options are split into two groups: either money off your bill, or a bonus added to your mobile plan, usually in the form of a bigger data allowance. The good thing about the latter is that you can add it to an existing plan if you're already a customer, without needing to take out a new deal.
How do the prices compare?
So how do the prices of bundles compare to buying all your services separately? And do they work out cheaper? Well, it's complicated. When you compare like-for-like services, bundles will usually give you a decent saving. But if you're willing to make compromises on what you need, they might not be the best option.
Here's an example. Let's say you want to sign up to Sky TV.
As of April 2019 you can get Sky Entertainment with 63Mb Fibre in a bundle from Sky for £42 a month. By contrast, if you took the cheapest fibre deal with an average 63Mb speed, from TalkTalk, plus the same Sky Entertainment package from Sky it would cost you a total of £47 a month. It's the same story for different speed broadband, and when you add more TV channels the gap increases further.
Bundles are cheaper when you compare like-for-like services. But - and there's always a but - it isn't quite as simple as that.
If you take that 63Mb TalkTalk Fibre plan and add a NOW TV Entertainment Pass instead of the Sky subscription, the monthly price plummets to just £33. In fact, add the NOW TV plan to Sky Fibre and it works out £7 a month less than the Sky bundle.
What gives? The important thing here is to compare the small differences in the services you're getting. NOW TV is cheaper and gives you the same channels you get through Sky, but it's also a far less premium service. You can't use it to record shows, access red button services, watch 4K broadcasts, or plenty of other things.
In summary: if you want the full monty, a bundle will almost always be cheaper. But if you're willing to shave off some of the extras, you might be able to make savings by buying separately.
Are bundles right for you?
Money aside, the big selling point of bundles is convenience. A bundle gives you one contract, one bill, and one customer service department to deal with. In most cases you'll be able to renew at the same time, too. And you could argue that getting all your services from the same provider will give you more leverage when it comes to negotiating the best deal. The more you pay, the keener they'll be to keep you.
But buying standalone deals has its merits, too. You get more choice, for a start, since there aren't many triple or quad-play broadband providers. And more flexibility, which lets you pick up a faster broadband package than your chosen TV provider can offer, for example. Plus, there's the possibility of taking shorter deals. Sky TV comes with an 18 month contract, Virgin 12 months, and NOW TV just 30 days.
Call plan bundles are the easiest to decide upon. Lots of us don't even have phones plugged into our landlines anymore, so don't need them. But if you make a lot of landline calls - especially international calls - then go for it.
For TV, make sure you know what you want before you sign up. For the full pay-TV experience a Sky or Virgin Media bundle will work out cheaper. If you just want a few extra channels, like from NOW TV or the handful of premium channels offered by BT, a standalone deal might actually work out better.
And as for mobile, keep an eye out for indirect savings. Sky TV customers, for instance, are automatically eligible for unlimited free calls and texts, which means they only need to pay for a data plan. The cheapest they offer is just £6 a month - almost certainly less than you're paying at the moment. EE give 5GB of mobile data to their broadband customers each month. This won't show as a saving on your broadband bill, but is likely to enable you to switch to a much cheaper mobile plan and make your savings there instead.
The main thing is to know what you need and how much it will cost you separately. The you can compare it to how much an equivalent bundle will set you back. Use our comparison tool to find your perfect broadband bundle to get started.
A new voluntary code introduced by Ofcom goes into effect today. This scheme means that the broadband providers who have signed up will have to reimburse customers in the event of their broadband or landline phone service being down for longer than two days. Here's what you need to know.
The compensation you can expect
Delayed repair following loss of service - if a fault takes longer than two days to fix, you can expect £8 for each day after that period that your broadband is not repaired
Missed appointments - if the engineer does not turn up or your appointment is cancelled with less than 24 hours of notice, you can expect £25 per missed appointment
Delays with the start of a new service - if your broadband does not go live on the agreed date, you can expect £5 for each day of delay, including the missed start date
Homes and small to medium businesses who choose to use residential broadband are eligible for compensation on this scheme, and you should only need to report the fault for compensation to be paid out automatically.
To qualify for compensation, faults must not be of your own making (for example, your problem is down to your own wiring and equipment, you shove a spade through a vital cable on your property, or you're not at home for an engineer visit). You're also due compensation in the event of extreme weather causing problems and third-party incidents that contribute to the delay of repairs.
The providers taking part
Originally BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Zen signed up to the agreement back when it was proposed in 2017. Since then EE, Hyperoptic, Plusnet and Vodafone have also signed up, accounting for more than 95% of broadband and landline customers in the UK. While most of these providers will be participating in this scheme from today, Hyperoptic and Vodafone will start automatic compensation later this year, and EE should be ready to do so next year.
The first of the month usually has broadband providers dusting off some good offers, and today is no exception. Take your pick from the great deals below!
BT have a very tempting offer this week. Not only can you bag a BT reward card on most packages, if you opt for a fibre product you also get a choice of an Amazon Echo, a Fitbit Charge 3 or a Samsung Tablet A 10.1 - worth up to £179! Superfast Fibre is £29.99 a month and comes with an £80 reward card or, if it's available in your area, you can get Superfast Fibre 2 for £39.99 a month with a £120 reward card.
If you’re not looking from fibre from BT, their standard Broadband with Weekend Calls is only £24.99 a month and comes with a £50 reward card, though sadly no tech extras. TV packages with these rewards are also available.1
TalkTalk’s Fast Broadband package is only £17 a month and comes with a £60 voucher. This offer is only available through the link in this blog post.3
John Lewis have several e-gift cards on offer, depending on the package you opt for. Broadband Unlimited is £20 a month and comes with a £35 e-gift card, Fibre is £28.50 a month and comes with a £50 e-gift card for and Fibre Extra is £35 a month and comes with a £75 e-gift card.4
EE have a Double Data Boost on all their broadband packages. If you have a mobile calling plan with EE you can increase your mobile data allowance by 10GB instead of the usual 5GB boost. Your broadband packages options are Standard Broadband for £21 a month, Fibre Broadband for £27 a month, or Fibre Plus for £31 a month. TV packages are also available.5
All offers available to new customers only unless otherwise specified. See respective landing pages for full terms and conditions and details of how to claim rewards.
1. All BT products are on an 18 month contract. Connection fees may apply. Prices increase from month 19, see website for out of contract prices. BT reward is a pre-paid Mastercard of the specified amount. Offers ends midnight ending 14th March.
2. Standard broadband products are on a 12 month contract, fibre products on an 18 month contract. Connection fees may apply. Prices increase at the end of the offer period when your contract is up, see website for out of contract prices. Plusnet reward is a pre-paid Mastercard of the specified amount. Offers ends midnight ending 12th March.
3. TalkTalk Fast Broadband is on a 12 month contract. Vouchers are a choice between Amazon.co.uk, Argos, Tesco or Ticketmaster. Offer ends midnight ending 15th March.
4. Offer is on an 18 month contract, John Lewis will contact you before this is up to inform you have price rises from month 19. E-gift card can be redeemed at John Lewis or Waitrose. Offer ends midnight ending 5th March.
5. Offer available to existing mobile customers. All EE products are on an 18 month contract. You will be contacted before your contract is up to inform you of price rises from month 19. Data should be added to your mobile account. Offer ends midnight ending 28th March.
More realistic speed estimates - Providers need to advertise speed estimates that are relevant, and must display an 'average speed' that at least 50% of their customers can get during peak hours, between 8pm and 10pm.
Tell you your minimum guaranteed speeds at point of sale - Before you commit to buying, you should be told the minimum dowmload and upload speeds you can get, so you know what to expect, whether you have an actual speed problem, and if you have the right to terminate your contract.
Improving your rights to leave your contract early - Providers will have 30 days to fix your speeds, and if they're unable to do so they must offer you the right to downgrade or to terminate your contract without penalty. This now includes customers on bundled packages, such as landline and TV services.
These rights apply to all cutsomers regardless of the technology - Previously the rules only covered customers on standard broadband over copper landlines, or 'part-fibre' Fibre to the Cabinet products. Now they apply to 'full fibre' Fibre to the Premises/Home technologies as well, including services that use the Openreach (BT Group) telephone network and Virgin Media's cable network.
The updated Code remains voluntary, so Ofcom won't have the power to force all broadband providers to comply. However, most of the major providers have signed up, in fact Ofcom believes Code complaint providers currently serve around 95% of home broadband customers.
Many of the smaller providers haven't signed up on the basis that the implementation of the technologies needed are too impractical and costly for them to make it viable at this time. The principles of the Code have also been criticised by one small provider. It should also be noted that, although the Code applies to all sales from 1st of March onwards, Ofcom won't be testing the compliance of the rules until 2020 to give the signatories time to implement the changes.
The providers who have signed up for the new 2019 Voluntary Codes of Practice are:
KCOM (Hull Area)
BT, Daisy, TalkTalk and Virgin Media have also signed up for this to cover Business customers, with KCOM and XLN sign expected to be compliant in the near future.
You could be in line for compensation next time your internet goes down, following an agreement involving some of the UK's biggest broadband providers.
A voluntary code introduced by industry regulator Ofcom states that, from early next year, providers will have to reimburse customers if they lose broadband or landline phone service.
So far, BT, Sky, Virgin Media, TalkTalk and Zen Internet have signed up to the agreement. Plusnet and EE have also indicated that they may join.
What you'll get
Under the plan, customers will receive £8 per day in compensation when their broadband goes down and the fault takes longer than two days to fix.
In addition, there will be £25 compensation when an engineer misses a scheduled appointment, or cancels within 24 hours.
Plus, customers will receive £5 per day when new services they sign up for do not start on time.
Homes, and small and medium businesses are eligible.
There are some caveats. You won't get compensation if you're the cause of the problem, like if you damage the wiring in your home or are out when the engineer arrives. Most faults are also likely to be fixed inside two days, so you could still experience disruption without being compensated for it.
Openreach are also involved in the scheme, since most faults occur on their network (apart from Virgin Media, who use their own infrastructure). They have said that they won't compensate the broadband suppliers in the event of force majeure events like flooding, leaving the onus on the suppliers themselves to foot the bill in those instances.
After a consultation in Spring 2017, Ofcom published their judgement in November 2017, giving retail and wholesale providers a 15 month deadline by which automatic compensation had to be in place. This means that the very latest we can expect to see the system working is mid-February 2019.
Your consumer rights
The agreement is the latest in a line of measures designed to the experience of broadband users, and ensure we're all getting value for money.
As we spend more and more of our lives online - managing our money and doing our shopping - we're more likely to encounter problems. Viruses, scams and other cyber-crimes are continuing to become more common. So what's the best way to stay safe online? Let's take a look.
1. Install anti-virus software
Anti-virus software is a must if you use Windows (less so for Macs, Chromebooks, phone and tablets). It doesn't just protect you against viruses you can get though email attachments or dodgy downloads; it protects against all malware - any software designed with malicious intent. This includes nasties like spyware that steals your passwords, and ransomware, which locks down your computer unless you pay up.
Free anti-virus software from your broadband provider
A lot of the best broadband providers give you a free, or cheap, anti-virus subscription as part of their deal. If yours is on this list, make sure you take them up on the offer:
BT: with BT you get the McAfee powered BT virus Protect. You can install it on two or up to 15 machines, depending on your package. You also get Web Protect, which checks websites you visit are safe, and True Key, a secure password manager you can install on five devices.
EE: EE Home Broadband gives you a year's subscription to Norton Security Premium for up to 10 devices. After that it costs £39.99 a year, half the normal price.
Plusnet: Plusnet Protect, from McAfee, is free for Unlimited and Unlimited Fibre Extra customers. On the standard Unlimited Fibre deal you'll need to pay an extra £2 a month for your virus protection. You can install it on up to seven PCs.
Sky Broadband: on one of Sky's Unlimited deals you get a 12 month free trial of the McAfee Internet Security suite for up to three PCs. On the limited packages you get three months. Once the trial is up you can keep it going for £3 extra a month.
TalkTalk: with TalkTalk you get HomeSafe, an award winning online security package. This combines some virus protection and parental controls. It isn't a full anti-virus tool, though.
Virgin Media: Virgin Media Security is worth £39.95 a year, but is free to all Virgin Media broadband customers. It gives you full anti-virus coverage for up to three PCs.
Vodafone: with Vodafone you get a free six month sub to F Secure SAFE anti-virus package for up to five devices. After that, you can subscribe for £39.99 a year - half the normal price.
NOW Broadband: with NOW you get the Broadband Buddy service. This helps to protect you against malware-infected sites, but isn't a full anti-virus package.
John Lewis Broadband: John Lewis offers a full subscription to the Bullguard security package for Windows users.
If your supplier isn't on the list, there's loads of free anti-virus tools you can get instead. Bitdefender and Avast are among the most highly rated.
Malware isn't just a concern for those who browse the murkier reaches of the internet. Perfectly benign, mainstream websites can become compromised, and even ads can be crafted to try and do bad things without you even needing to click on them.
2. Keep your software updated
It's so tempting to turn off automatic software updates. They always pop up at the worst possible time, and if it happens to be a Windows update you can write off the next half hour waiting for it to finish.
Except, software updates are really important. Especially the Windows ones.
They don't just bring new features or improved performance, they make your computer more secure. Bugs in software can create the kind of security risks that malware thrives upon. Not only do they allow the malware into your system, they can also enable it to spread from one machine to another.
Updates shut down these vulnerabilities. At the very least, don't turn off updates to Windows or your web browser, such as Google Chrome. Better still, allow all your apps to update as they need to.
3. Learn how to recognise online scams
Malware is designed to exploit weaknesses in computer systems, but the truth is the weakest points of all are us, the users. You can lock down your laptop but it won't stop someone trying to trick you into handing over your passwords.
Phishing scams, as they're called, have moved on a lot since the days of the Nigerian prince who wanted to send you tens of millions of dollars. They're now a whole lot more sophisticated and difficult to spot. And it isn't just online that you need to be wary. You might get a text message purporting to be from your mobile network, or you could get a scam call from your broadband provider.
So, how do you spot scams? Here's a few tips:
Spelling and grammar mistakes in emails are a dead giveaway. Also, does the email greet you by name or a generic title?
Beware of emails demanding urgent action. Scammers try to scare you into responding, like telling you there's been a security alert on your account, or you're overdrawn, and you must log in to fix it.
Be wary of links in emails. Don't assume that the link is going to take you where you think it will.
Or just don't click links at all. Instead of clicking a link to one of your online services, manually type their address into your browser instead. Or pick up the phone and give them a call.
If it sounds suspicious, it probably is. If you didn't buy a lottery ticket, you didn't win the lottery.
Don't assume a fancy website means that a site is reputable. This is a rule to follow when shopping online, too.
Anti-virus software and web browsers will help you to sniff out phishing scams. What better reason to keep them up to date?
4. Use better passwords
We all know the importance of using strong passwords and not re-using them. But it can be difficult, since strong passwords are so much harder to remember. There are three things to try to make your life easier:
Think in terms of passphrases instead of passwords. A sentence of eight random words is easier to remember - and type - than a password of eight random characters, but it's just as hard to crack.
Consider using a password manager. Don't save your passwords in your web browser, use a dedicated password manager instead. This saves all your logins under a single, more secure password. With BT Broadband, the True Key offers exactly this feature and is worth trying out. Alternatively, take a look at LastPass or 1Password, both of which are free.
Use two factor authentication. A large and growing number of services offer two factor authentication. When you log in you need to enter both your password and a second, unique code sent to your phone via an app or text message. It's a lot more secure.
5. Keep an eye on your privacy
Finally, keep an eye on how much information you're sharing online. If you use social networks you're probably sharing a lot more than you realise. Check the Privacy section in Facebook and other services to lock them down, and make sure your kids do this, too.
And speaking of kids, most broadband providers offer some form of parental controls that you can use to manage what people can see, or how long they can go online. These are worth setting up, but remember that they are by no means foolproof.
If you're switching broadband and plan to take advantage of a Black Friday offer, then let us help you with a round-up of the home broadband deals that are available to you over this sale weekend (and beyond).
The availability of some of these deals will depend on where you live, so be sure to use our postcode checker to see what's available in your area.
BT's Black Friday offerings include reduced-price broadband and reward vouchers ranging from £70 to a whopping £140, depending on the package you opt for. Packages are on an 18 month contract with truly unlimited broadband and weekend calls on most deals. There are various broadband and TV combinations, with offered speeds averaging at 10Mb for standard broadband up to 67Mb on Superfast Fibre 2. Offer ends at midnight on the 26th of November.
EE's offer drops the monthly price of your broadband, and gives EE mobile customers a boost to their data allowance. The normal offer is 5GB, but for Black Friday that's been increased to a very tempting 20GB of mobile data. Prices start from £20 a month, with average speeds at 10Mb for standard broadband, 36Mb for Fibre and 67Mb for Fibre Plus. All EE broadband deals are on an 18 month contract, come with truly unlimited downloads and no activation fee, and Anytime calls are available for an extra £5 a month. Offer ends at midnight on the 4th of December.
First Utility are offering a discount that makes their packages some of the cheapest on the market. You can get a deal from £16.99 a month with average speeds of 11Mb on standard broadband, 35Mb on Fibre and 63Mb on the fastest Fibre product. All packages are on an 18 month contract with no activation fees, truly unlimited downloads and a range of call packages. Offers end at 2pm on the 6th of December.
If you live in a Hyperoptic-enabled area, then you can get some excellent hyperfast deals from them, and you don't even need a landline (though there are call options available should you need them). Reduced prices start from just £15 a month, and as Hyperoptic are a full-fibre provider then your expected speeds should be pretty close to their advertised average speeds of 30Mb, 150Mb and 900Mb! All of Hyperoptic's offers come on a 12 month contract, are truly unlimited and have no activation fees. Offer ends midnight on the 5th of December, and be sure to use the BLACKFRIDAY code at checkout to take advantage of the offer.
NOW Broadband's sale includes money off your broadband and comes with the Anytime call package for free (which usually costs an extra £8 a month). Prices start at £18 a month, and average speeds are 11Mb for standard broadband, 36Mb for Fibre and 63Mb for Super Fibre. They've also added extra Broadband and TV combos, so you can now get your choice of broadband with a discount on both the Sky Cinema and Sky Sports passes, as well as the existing offer on the Entertainment pass. All offers are on a 12 month contract, are truly unlimited and the only upfront costs to pay are £9.99 for postage and packaging for the inclusive router. Offer ends midnight on the 6th of December.
Plusnet have a £75 reward card available on their broadband plus phone bundles, as well as reduced monthly prices. Grab a deal from £18.99 a month with average speeds of 10Mb on standard broadband, 36Mb on Fibre and 66Mb on Fibre Extra. All of their Black Friday deals are on an 18 month contract with a fixed price guarantee, are truly unlimited with no activation fees and offer a choice of phone packages. Offer ends midnight on the 27th of November.
TalkTalk have reduced the price of all their packages for Black Friday, with prices starting from just £17 a month and TV packages are available. Average speeds are 11Mb for standard Fast Broadband, 36Mb for Faster Fibre, and 63Mb for the Faster Fibre speed boost. Fast Broadband packages come on a 12 month contract, with the rest on 18 months, and all come with fixed price broadband. Some packages have no activation, while others do come with TV box costs. Offers end at midnight on November the 29th.
Virgin Media have some select offers on for Black Friday, with their lowest ever prices for VIVID 100 plus phone package at only £25, the Full House TV bundle with VIVID 100 at £45 a month, and the VIP TV bundle (that has all the bells and whistles) with VIVID 350 at £75 a month. As Virgin provide their services over cables installed to your building, average speeds can surpass their advertised speeds. Virgin's deals are all unlimited, on a 12 month contract and come with Weekend calls included. There's also a £25 activation fee. Offers end midnight on the 26th of November.