The Internet has been a crucial tool in keeping people connected especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Families have been physically separated for months and with seniors being most vulnerable to the pandemic, the internet has kept families and friends connected. For others it has been a way to make new social connections through social media and online dating platforms. The internet has also enabled seniors to make payments and other transactions at the comfort of their homes. It is therefore a critical tool for most older adults.
However, safety concerns have been on the rise as the FBI notes that each year millions of elderly Americans fall victim to some type of financial fraud or confidence scheme such as lottery, romance and sweepstake scams. Seniors are a target to these scams because they are trusting, polite and have very little knowledge of emerging technologies. Very few of these fraud cases are reported because seniors are too ashamed of being scammed. Elder fraud accounts for losses of more than $3 billion annually making it necessary to consider internet safety for older adults.
Create Strong Passwords
Ensure that all your online accounts have very strong passwords that will make it difficult for hackers to access. Strong passwords should be at least 12 characters long with a mix of symbols, numbers and letter. Avoid including any personal information. Separate passwords for each account also help keep cybercriminals at bay. Adding a two-stop authentication for your account should be considered as it acts as a second layer of protection.
Social networking websites can be very tempting in regards to sharing snippets of our personal life. Sharing something as simple as your current location can be a risky move as you could be targeted by criminals viewing your profiles. Learn to be mindful with the information you share and the surveys you participate in, especially when they ask for personal information such as your income, wealth, health, family names and number of children.
Shop from Reputable Online Sources
While making purchases for items online, use online merchants that you are familiar with or have heard of in the past. Even with most of these being legitimate, some could be trying to access your credit card number, other financial information, location or fail to deliver the items you have ordered. If you are not sure what sources to rely on, seek help from a friend or family familiar with online shopping.
Take Ownership of Your Online Presence
You are at liberty to limit who should access your information on social media platforms. If you feel threatened by someone’s presence online, you can always block them or limit what they can access. It is important for you to be in full control of your online presence to avoid being exposed to individuals with negative intentions.
Do Not Open or Reply to Suspicious Emails or Links
Scammers might send you emails or links that will expose you to their online traps. If an email address or link does not look familiar or appears suspicious, avoid opening it. Delete the emails and block the users from accessing your email address. Additionally, you can change your safety settings depending on the browser you are using to filter messages from unknown email addresses or users.
Ask for Help
Most seniors are unfamiliar with the emerging trends in technology and this could expose them to scams online. Retailers could approach a senior citizen with a new software intended to offer them extra protection online, however, this software could be used to access their personal information. It is therefore necessary for seniors to ask for help from people they trust.