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Cybercrime is a growing problem for businesses, the government, and individuals. It is increasingly difficult for most people to find ways to protect private information online. For older adults who might not be comfortable with technology, protecting themselves from becoming a victim of cybercrime is even more important.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security designated the month of October as National Cyber Security Awareness Month. In honor of this designation, we are sharing tips adult children and family caregivers can use to keep a senior’s personal information safe.
4 Tips to Protect a Senior From Cybercrime
While these are good tips for adults of any age to use to protect themselves from cybercrime, it’s especially important to review them with older adults.
1: Don’t open emails offering free things in the subject line.
Be especially wary of any emails that offer free vacations, prize money, or any other gifts. Scammers know it’s human nature to respond to these types of offers. They use these gimmicks to get people to click on links that unleash a virus or take visitors to sites designed to collect personal information.
Encourage your senior loved one to immediately delete these kinds of emails when they pop up in their Inbox.
2: Beware of emails that contain links to financial institutions.
Phishing emails can appear so realistic that it’s easy to understand how people fall for them. Some will look like an email coming from your bank or credit union with a warning that you need to change your password. You’ll find a link inside the email that will redirect you to a site that closely mirrors your financial institution’s legitimate site.
Another email scam is when criminals send email posing as agencies and organizations like the Social Security Administration or Medicare. Their goal is usually to obtain your Social Security number so they can use it to open credit cards or apply for loans in your name.
One tip you can share with your senior loved one is to never use links contained in an email. Instead, go directly to the site and log in.
3: Be careful who you connect with on social media.
Another avenue cyber criminals often pursue is making friends with people online through their social media channels. In doing so, they hope you will come to trust them. Then, they might tell you a sad but false story, such as how a young grandchild needs money for life-saving surgery, to get you to send them money.
They also look for other ways to steal from you offline, such as watching for signs that indicate when you go to church or that you never miss a high school football game. Scammers are especially tuned into signals that online friends will be away on vacation.
Recommend that your loved one only accept friend requests from people they know in real life, and discourage them from sharing vacation plans.
4: Develop safe online browsing habits.
A senior’s online habits can also put them at risk for cybercrimes. Make sure they have updated virus protection software on their computer. Discourage them from entering contests and sharing their email address on sites they aren’t familiar with.
Finally, ensure the senior has strong passwords on all their online accounts. Read “How to Create a Strong Password” to learn what elements make it harder for an account to be hacked.
Technology and Seniors
The bottom line is that many older adults enjoy learning how to master technology and appreciate the opportunities the internet provides them to keep in touch with faraway friends and loved ones. The key is to help them do so safely.
It might be beneficial to help your senior loved one connect with a basic computer safety class at their local community college or senior center. These types of classes are just one of the many ways we help residents Live With Learning every day at Sunrise communities!