8 Ways to Help Senior Adults Stay Safe Online These Days
Technology has come in handy for most of us during these days of pandemic distancing. But for the -at-risk, homebound senior population, technology has been a lifeline connecting them to family members, online services, and healthcare. Still, this unprecedented shift to virtual life has also come with potential risks that seniors and their families should keep in mind.
According to a Pew study, senior adults continue to become more digitally connected, but adoption rates continue to trail younger users, and digital divides remain. The study also revealed that 77% of older adults needed assistance when it came to learning how to use technology.
If you are a senior or someone helping a senior become more tech-savvy, online safety should be a priority. Here are just some of the risks seniors may encounter and some helpful ways to stay safe.
Secure home routers and devices. Be sure to change your router’s default username and password to something strong and unique. Also, change the default passwords of any connected device before connecting to your home network. IoT (Internet of Things) devices are all the technologies under your roof that can connect such as security systems, healthcare monitors, hearing aids, and smart TVs. These technologies are embedded with sensors or software that can connect and exchange data with other household devices — and each must be secured to close privacy gaps. There are also routers with embedded security, to help secure the home from threats, no matter what devices is connected to the home network.
Use strong passwords. Strong passwords are essential for in-home devices, personal devices, social media sites, and any healthcare or banking portal. Creating a strong password is also a front-line defense against identity theft and fraud. For seniors, keeping passwords in one place is important, but can be hard to remember them all. comprehensive security software includes password management functionality, which makes it easer, to create and safely archive your passwords. -.
Avoid scams. There are a number of scams that target seniors. Phishing scams are emails that look legitimate that end up taking millions from seniors every year. For this reason, never click on suspicious links from government agencies, banks, hospitals, brokerages, charities, or bill collectors unless you are certain they are legitimate. Scammers use these malicious links to con people out of giving away cash or personal data that can be used to create a number of fraudulent accounts. Consider protecting all personal devices with a comprehensive security solution.
Use a personal VPN. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) encrypts (or scrambles) your data when you connect to the Internet and enables you to browse or bank with your credentials and history protected. To learn about VPNs, watch this video.
Beware of dating scams. People aren’t always who they appear to be online. And while dating scams can happen to any age group, they can be especially harmful to a vulnerable senior who may be lonely and living on a limited income. Love scam red flags: Beware of people who claim to be from the U.S. but often travel or work overseas. Also, avoid people who profess their love too quickly, share personal struggles too soon, and never meet face-to-face.
Take a closer look. Fraudulent websites look very real these days. A secure website will have an “https” in the browser’s address bar. The “s” stands for “secure.” If the web address or URL is just http, it’s not a secure site. Still unsure? Read reviews of the site from other users before making a purchase. Never send cash, cashier’s check, or a personal check to any online vendor. If purchasing, always use a credit card in case there is a dispute.
Never share personal data. Be wary of emails or websites that require you to give personal information, such as your social security number, phone number, account, or family information. This includes those fun social media quizzes, which are also ways that cybercriminals can find out your personal details, such as a pets name, year you were born, your home town. All those pieces of personal data can be used to commit identity theft.
Monitor financial accounts. Nowadays, it’s essential to review all financial statements for fraudulent activity. If suspicious activity is found, report it to your bank or credit card account immediately. It’s also a good idea to put a credit alert on your accounts to detect potential fraud.
This unique time has issued unique challenges to every age group. However, if you know a senior, keep their potential technology needs in mind. Check in from time to time and offer your help. If you are a tech-savvy senior (and I know many), consider reaching out to peers who may be struggling and afraid to ask. In addition, YouTube has a number of easy-to-understand videos on any tech question. In addition, both Apple and Microsoft stores offer free advice on their products and may also help. Just be sure to visit their official websites to reach legitimate tech support channels.