13 Internet Safety Tips for Seniors

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Everyone can benefit from staying safe online, especially seniors.

 Internet scammers target people aged 60 and older because they are more likely to have large amounts of cash saved, home ownership, fall for new cure claims and are less likely to report a crime or admit they were scammed because they are embarrassed according to the FBI.

This is a recipe for disaster and why it’s important to understand the dangers of the internet and acquire a list of helpful tips on how to stay safe online.

1. Use strong & unique passwords. It’s important to not use common passwords, same passwords across different sites or short ones which can allow hackers to easily break into your online accounts.

Aim for complex passwords containing 10+ characters in length with a combination of numbers, special characters, and upper and lower-case letters.

2. Search for a reputable password manager. A password manager is a software application or service that securely stores and manages all your passwords in one centralized location. It eliminates the need to remember multiple complex passwords by generating strong, unique passwords for each of your online accounts. Most, if not all, come with a built-in random password generator to help create strong passwords and offer secure storage. Cybernews has a great list of simple password managers for the elderly to help with choosing one. The best perk is that it will automatically fill in usernames and complex passwords for any site you’ve saved with it across the internet.

3. Never give out passwords! Many scammers will even pretend to be a reputable company and produce emails mimicking the real company asking for your password or even bank account information.

Real companies won’t ask for personal information through email, only scammers. Do not give this out under any circumstance.

If a company does contact you and you feel it may be valid, call their number directly from their website or another way you’ve used to contact them before but don’t email them back or contact them using a method they list in the e-mail.

4. Don’t open every email received. Email is a popular way for scammers to fish for innocent victims. Scammers are skilled at crafting convincing emails that mimic legitimate sources like Amazon, banks, or credit card companies. Here are a few examples of what a phishing email looks like.  If you’re unsure of where an email came from, don’t open it.

This insidious software can compromise your privacy by pilfering sensitive information like credit card numbers, monitoring your online activities, and even causing system crashes that render your computer inoperable.

5. Don’t open unknown/suspicious texts.  Scammers also use text messages to trick individuals into revealing personal information, such as passwords or financial details. This is known as smishing (SMS phishing). These messages often appear to be from a legitimate source like a bank with an urgent message and may prompt the recipient to click on a link or reply with sensitive information such as your bank login credentials.

6. Avoid browsing on public wifi. This is a tough one to avoid because stores, hotels and even airports promote this as an amenity and it’s helpful when out and about, however, it comes with significant security risks.

Public wifi can give hackers access to a list of things such as emails, passwords, confidential information and more, so it’s best to avoid using free public wifi at all costs.

7. Secure personal wifi network. Make sure your wifi at home is password protected and be careful whom you give this password out to. You should be able to log into the router’s page on your computer and set a password, but if you’re not tech savvy, ask a family member to assist you or pick a service provider with routers equipped with a pre-set password already.

online security padlock for secure purchases

8. Shop on only reputable websites. Shop on familiar websites, make sure the website is secure by looking for the encryption padlock symbol.

If you are unsure if the website is safe for shopping, skip it. There is not a sale big enough worth a security breach into your personal information.

9. Use credit cards. Most tasks can be done online nowadays and retailers are making it easier and easier to pay online for everything. Even if the site is secure and well-known, it’s best to only use a credit card when shopping online because if a purchase turns out to be fraudulent, no money is lost and taken from your bank account.

Make sure to always look at your credit card statement at least monthly and report any fraudulent activity as soon as possible.

Most credit cards have free safeguards included to alert you to any unusual activity made on the card. Also, don’t hesitate to reach out to your credit card provider and ask about security precautions you can take.

10. Free trials. Be skeptical of any offer claiming to be free.  A lot of these offers are misleading and in the fine print, you’ll find terms such as “free for the first month” and after, you could be charged an outrageous monthly price unknowingly.

Usually, these offers will ask for credit card information before processing the free claim and this is a sign the free offer isn’t exactly free and something to possibly avoid altogether.

11. Online dating. Be wary of dating sites which can be a pool for scammers preying on the lonely elderly looking for company.

The most common red flag is a scammer posing as someone attractive and much younger than you expressing extreme interest. Soon after their contact gains some sort of relationship, they begin asking for money.

old lady drawing a heart in the sand

Most likely this is someone that has uploaded a fake profile photo trying to gain your trust to access your money. Usually, once they receive money, they will continue to try and gain access to more and more until it’s all gone before moving onto their next victim.

12. Social media. Connecting with friends and family on social media is great for people with limited mobility and the aging to stay connected. However, never accept friend requests from people that you don’t know and always double check with the person directly before accepting their friend requests as some hackers are now cloning accounts and posing as friends and family.

Avoid posting pictures of your vacation until after you’re back as it could alert someone that you’re away from home and open your home up to burglaries.

Always remember any posts made online could last indefinitely. Make sure every post is something you’re ok with being part of your online history and possibly tied to your name forever.

13. Trust your gut. This is one of the most important tips to keep in mind. Scammers are everywhere looking to gain your trust and even when armed with great advice, it’s easy to fall victim to the latest traps because as internet users are becoming savvier,  so are scammers. If something doesn’t feel right, avoid it or investigate it more.

Remember to listen to the tried and true advice of, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

These above tips are a few basic safety precautions every senior needs to know to be safe online. It’s important to be more careful and aware of your surroundings on the internet because scammers can make themselves untraceable making it hard to get any recourse after being a victim of scam and fraud.

Be safe out there!

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