The majority of Americans live digitally-centric lives, including older adults. We communicate via email, instant messaging apps, phone calls and texting. We catch up with old friends and connect with family members on social media. We enter our credit card information online without hesitation in order to snap up a great deal… the list goes on.
While these conveniences can be great in their own right, they also open the door for people with malicious intent to take advantage of others. Here’s how to navigate potential security threats and make your online experience more enjoyable.
Why Are Seniors Targeted Online?
Unfortunately, seniors are a popular target for criminals. In fact, 3.5 million seniors fall victim to various financial crimes – online and off – every year. But why?
- Financial position. After retirement, some older adults have accrued millions in savings, which makes them a prime target for financial crimes. Additionally, they have access to both Medicare and Social Security benefits, which scammers can tap into through healthcare fraud or identity theft.
- Less likely to report a scam. Seniors may be perceived as less inclined to report losing money to fraud. This could be due to either not knowing how to file a report or being embarrassed that they fell victim to a scam.
Tips To Boost Online Safety and Minimize Risk for Seniors
While scammers abound online, there are some things you can do to protect yourself from their schemes.
Look for Red Flags
Red Flag Number One: Urgent Tone or Fear-Inducing Messages
Online scams come in many different forms, but all are designed to take advantage of your emotions. Scammers rush and pressure people, causing them to act on their feelings and the situation’s urgency. Their goal is to get you to comply quickly without thinking too much about it.
Language like “pay this fee now, or your insurance will be canceled,” “five viruses have been detected on your computer, click here to solve,” or “enter your password so your account isn’t terminated” are red flags. If the person you’re communicating with is using a hostile, angry tone, this is another sign that they are trying to pressure you into falling for their scam.
Red Flag Number Two: Asking for Personal Information
Financial information, like your credit card or bank account information, usernames and passwords, social security number and other personally identifiable information, should never be given out to people who call, text or email you. Legitimate companies and institutions will rarely, if ever, ask for your information this way.
You should also never pay people through unconventional methods like wire transfers, payment apps, money orders, gift cards or cryptocurrency. These methods of money transfer are popular among cybercriminals because they are difficult to trace.
Red Flag Number Three: Vague or Difficult-To-Find Information
If someone is asking you for personal information or trying to sell you something, ask questions about who they represent. If they can’t answer or simply don’t want to share these details, they are probably a scammer.
Research the company that is contacting you and call or email them at a verified phone number or address. If it’s a scam, other people may also have posted about it online. A quick search will be able to give you the information you need about an organization’s legitimacy.
Red Flag Number Four: Unexpected, Unsolicited Contact Attempts
Be wary of emails, calls, texts or other forms of communication from someone unfamiliar or from a source you didn’t previously give your information to. This could look like a random person reaching out through email asking how you are doing or receiving a text that you are a lucky winner of a contest you never entered.
Other Helpful Cybersecurity Tips for Seniors
In addition to identifying red flags, you also want to use these tools and tactics to safely surf the web.
- Avoid opening emails from unknown or unfamiliar sources and opening or downloading their attachments.
- Ask a friend or family member if you feel something is suspicious.
- Use multifactor authentication on your online accounts.
- Use a different password for each of your accounts. To keep track of your passwords, use a secure password manager.
- Use reliable antivirus, firewall and security softwares to block malware, suspicious links, unsafe downloads and other harmful programs in real-time.
- Don’t click on questionable links in social media posts, emails or text messages.
- Check URLs and email addresses to ensure they are legitimate, typo-free and aren’t spoofs of credible companies. To easily tell if a URL is secure, ensure it begins with “https://” or that it has a padlock icon next to its address bar at the top of your browser.
- Don’t engage with pop-up windows on your computer, tablet or phone.
- Use caution with unexpected or unsolicited contact attempts.
- Stay on top of your devices’ software updates.
If you suspect the person you are communicating with is a scammer, end all communication with them. If you notice your computer is running slow, have unwanted pop-ups or think you may have engaged with suspicious content, don’t be afraid to ask a loved one for help or contact a trusted cybersecurity expert for support.
Get More Resources from Abbey Delray
Abbey Delray is a state-of-the-art senior living community designed to help older adults, like you, live an enriching, fulfilling retirement. We are dedicated to your well-being and safety – online and off – and provide exceptional social, educational and wellness programming to keep you informed. Contact us today to see what adventures await you at Abbey Delray.