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Top 10 Internet Safety Tips for Seniors to Follow for Online Security

Older Americans are regularly online in rapidly increasing numbers. According to AARP, about 44% of seniors view technology in a more positive light than ever before.

The reasons seniors go online to use the Internet and social media differ greatly and include:

  • Keeping in touch with family and friends
  • Reading news and getting information
  • Booking travel plans
  • Telehealth appointments
  • Shopping
  • Investments and online banking
  • Meeting new friends or dating

While seniors are embracing technology, the wealth of life experience they enjoy doesn’t always translate to being well prepared for the risks that come while navigating the Internet. There are concerns over online security that seniors should be aware of while online. Here are the top 10 internet safety tips for seniors to follow:

1. Choose strong and uncommon passwords

It’s important to not share your password with anyone, unless there is a designated family member or friend you trust with your account in the event something happens to you. The most common scam that families fall victim to is when a senior is contacted by someone who claims they’re a family member friend asking for help or to have money wired because of an emergency.

Create a password that isn’t linked to your personality, like your dog’s name or the street you live on, and instead choose a password with numbers, upper and lowercase letters that you can remember will help prevent someone impersonating you. 

Is there even more you can do to make sure your passwords are secure? Yes, there is. “I recommend everyone turn on multi-factor authentication,” said Elderwood Director of Information Technology David Takacs.

Multi-factor authentication requires someone to provide two or more verification measures to gain access to an account. Sometimes it may be a text message to your phone, app, or an email message for added confirmation as an added measure to prevent hackers from compromising your security. “Is it a bit of a hassle to have to confirm with either a code or via an app to login, sure, but it will make your account significantly more secure,’ said Takacs.

2. Be wary and don’t click links right away

It’s important to be aware of links that can come across your screen that are placed in e-mails, web pages, or social media accounts. Don’t click on any of these unless you’re 100% sure they are from a legitimate source that you know and trust.

“One of the biggest ways that seniors compromise their accounts, is by opening a link that someone sent them,” said Takacs. “Someone has their account stolen and that stolen account sends out a link to everyone on their friends list with a link to maybe a news article or some other site, and it’s amazing how many people fall for it. If something looks suspicious or out of the ordinary, it probably is.”

3. Steer away from offers that are too good to be true

Another common scam that seniors fall victim to is being given an offer that is too good to be true. If you are contacted by someone saying you’ve won a vacation or contest that you know you’ve never entered, it’s best to steer clear. Another scam is being offered low-cost medication or medical coverage.

4. Shop at reputable online retailers that you know and trust

If you enjoy shopping online, it’s best to stick with online retailers you know and trust. Stay away from any online retailers that you’ve never heard of. They may try and steal your financial information or not provide you with the product that was promised.

5. Keep an eye out for secure websites

Keep a look out for secure websites. The best way to know if a website is secure is by looking in the browser for the “https.” The “s” indicates the website is secure. If you see a web address that says “http” that means the website is not secure.

6. When possible, use credit cards

When using the internet, never send payment in the form of cash, cashier’s checks, or money orders. To help protect your financial security use credit cards or even PayPal for payment options. This gives you the option to dispute a charge in the event your identity or financial information is stolen and will prevent you from losing money that you’ll never be able to get back.

7. Take your time before you click on something

It happens to the best of us. We may be in a rush and click something without realizing what it was we were selecting, only it’s too late to turn back.

Make sure to take your time when reading an email or looking at a website. This helps ensure that you won’t click on anything that will be potentially harmful, whether it’s compromising your computer or financial security.

8. Research an organization before donating online

Emails and targeted digital advertisements can become overwhelming as we age. It’s important to research an organization prior to making a donation if you ever receive an email or see an advertisement.

Charities have their own websites with an option to donate online, just make sure that the charity you’re going to is legitimate prior to inputting your financial information. You can check charitynavigator.org to see if the charity’s website is legitimate.

9. Keep social media profiles private

While social media allows the world to connect and have a greater sense of community, it also can leave seniors vulnerable to hackers and criminals who have ill intentions. The best way to stay secure on social media is to set your profile to private so no one has access to seeing you post about your personal life.

“It’s also important to not accept friend requests from people you don’t know,” said Takacs. “Too many people leave their social media accounts public and with all the personal information that gets shared online you can compromise your security.  Going on a vacation and sharing pictures with friends or family is great, but if you have your account public for everyone to see, it’s a great advertisement to let someone nefarious know that you aren’t home.”

10. Keep an eye on your financial accounts

Sometimes seniors won’t realize their information has been compromised until it’s too late. The best way to stay on top of any potential threats is to keep a regular eye on your financial accounts. If there have been any suspicious charges or withdrawals, you’ll be able to flag them right away, and shut down any credit cards associated with the account to prevent from any further fraud.

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