It’s hard to avoid talk of cyber crimes these days. It seems as though every day, the news shares stories about hackers, both foreign and domestic. And while the Internet has been a powerful and useful tool for many of us, it can also make you an easy target for cyber criminals.
Internet safety for seniors is particularly important because there is no shortage of scams aimed at seniors. While many criminals will still target senior citizens the old fashioned way--in person or over the phone--their new medium of choice is the internet. A computer allows cyber criminals to hide behind anonymity and also prey on weaknesses of older Americans.
Because many people over the age of 65 are relatively new to digital technology, they fall prey to more senior scams than their younger counterparts. Figuring out how to stay safe on the internet as a senior can not only help you better navigate the web, but it can also help to protect your bank account and identity.
Seniors on the Internet
While research has shown that older Americans have been slower to adopt technology than other age groups, it has also found that senior smartphone use has gone up over the past few years. In 2012, the Pew Research Center discovered that more than half of adults aged 65 and older were internet users.
Google partnered with research firm Ipsos to conduct a study of the internet habits of more than 6,000 boomers and seniors. Among their findings:
- 78 percent of boomers and 52 percent of seniors are online.
- The two groups combined spend an average of 19 hours on the internet each week--more than any other medium.
- 71 percent of boomers and 52 percent of seniors use a social networking site on a daily basis. The most popular site of choice? Facebook.
Many seniors find having access to the world at their fingertips is synonymous with freedom. It can keep you connected to friends and family who have moved away and help you to remain engaged in current events--in real time. There are a host of advantages for seniors who go online, but internet safety for seniors is a necessary component to surfing securely.
Avoiding Senior Scams
Learning how to stay safe on the internet is valuable for everyone, but especially for seniors. While there is no way to stop scammers from coming up with new ways to prey on people, there are some things to consider that will promote internet safety for seniors.
The Center for Internet Security recommends that seniors should be wary of emails, websites or social media messages that:
- Offer "free" gifts, prizes or vacations, or claim that "You're a winner!"
- Offer discount prescription medications or other "can't miss" deals
- Appear to be from friends or family members, but the message is written in a style not usually used by that person, has numerous misspellings, or otherwise seems unusual. This is an indication your friend or family member's account may have been hacked
- Appear to be from official government agencies, such as Social Security Administration, or banks, requesting personal information
- Set ultimatums such as "your account will be closed," or "the deal will expire" to create a sense of urgency, and trick the victim into providing personal information
In addition to being wary of these sketchy emails that are often bait for senior scams, the Center for Internet Security suggests several ways that you can practice better internet safety at home:
- Keep your wireless network protected with a secure password
- Make passwords for important websites--especially ones that store bank account or credit card data--unique and strong, using a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters as well as numbers
- Use caution when posting personal information on websites or social media platforms. For example, never post on social media when you are going away on vacation because it can be an invitation for people to rob you while you are away
- If you’re ever confused about what to do with a potentially suspicious email, just delete it
Safe Online, Safe At Home
Internet safety for seniors is only one component of remaining safe as you age. Remaining safe at home, especially for independent seniors who live alone, can be vital to aging well. Investing in a medical alert device from Medical Guardian will provide you with an affordable solution to connecting to help when you need it most.