Although seniors are online increasingly, they are still the age group slower than any other at engaging in online activity. Using the Internet offers many benefits, and none tops the fact that it can bring distant family and friends near. If you can’t hold your grandchildren in your arms right now, you may at least be able to watch precious ones grow by regularly talking to them face-to-face via computer – all at no charge, other than any costs associated with maintaining an online connection. In addition, making convenient online transactions can save time and cut expenses. Of course, there are risks associated with online activities, and they provide valid cause for concern among all users, including our residents at Discovery Village at Naples retirement communities. The good news is that there are reliable ways to protect yourself from dangers associated with Internet use. If you follow proven safety precautions, you can join millions of others who get more out of life by using the Internet. Using online resources is just another way seniors can thrive in independent living, as long as they stay safe.
Be Aware of Internet Scams
Senior citizens are the target of many unscrupulous people who make all-out efforts to benefit financially from various online scams. There are quite a few patterns that have emerged, which helps to identify fraudulent schemes when they happen. Be wary of the following types of websites, emails, and messages on social media sites:
- Announcements such as:
- You are a winner!
- Free gifts!
- Free prizes!
- Free vacations!
- You are urgently warned that a deal will soon expire or your account will be closed if you don’t take action, but the scammers are seeking a way to gain your personal information.
- Offers for can’t-miss deals, such as discount prescription medications.
- A message appears to be from a family member or friend but it has misspellings or in some other way seems unusual. If this happens, it could be because that person’s account was “hacked,” which means an unknown person has gained control of your friend’s or loved one’s online account activity. This is a somewhat common occurrence. The best way to prevent hacking is to regularly change your passwords. See tips below for creating a strong password that is virtually hack-proof.
- It appears to be a communication from the Social Security Administration or a bank, and it includes a request for bits of your personal information.
- Cyberbullying, or online bullying, often affects senior citizens. Cyberbullying includes such activities as:
- Financial abuse in which the victim’s account information is used to steal their money or max out their charge cards.
- Emotional abuse which might involve threats, accusations, rage, or insulting comments, frequently followed by periods in which communication is cut off.
Internet Safety Tips
An online safety awareness campaign urges all Internet users to “stop, think, and connect.” You can take steps which will ensure that your Internet experience is free of problems and regrets, such as the following:
- Use an Internet connection / wireless router that requires a secure password to be used.
- Use security software on your computer that has an auto-update feature.
- Use a different password for each online website that you use. A strong password is one that includes at least one of the following four components: upper case letter, lower case letter, number, and symbol.
- Always keep in mind that the government, banks, companies, charities, colleges, and other legitimate entities do not ask for personal information to be provided by email. Be wary if you are asked to confirm or update your information.
- Be cautious about what you post online, particularly on social networking sites. Any personal details that you post could be used in an attempt to steal your identity. Don’t openly post your birthdate or address, for example.
- Familiarize yourself with how to work with privacy settings on websites and social media sites that you frequent. Privacy settings can be restricted so that you are comfortable with who may be looking at your posts.
- Be especially careful when shopping or banking online, only using these with online addresses that begin with https://, rather than simply http:// because the “s” is an indication that the data is encrypted in transit, preventing your information from being easily stolen.
- Never click on a message that is suspect. Scammers can access your computer sometimes simply as a result of your opening a link in a social media post, online ad, or email.
- Back it up: Store valuable work, photos, music, and other information on a backup hard drive or online “cloud.”
Now that the subject of Internet protection has been addressed, be sure to read this continuing series for getting the most benefit out of your online activity. At Discovery Village at Naples retirement communities in Florida, most of our residents have begun to find ways to enjoy various aspects of the Internet; and we hope you will, too. To learn about our available rooms and programs, contact Discovery Village at Naples today by calling 239.238.1790.