Seniors today are active in their retirement years and are spending their golden years exploring the world around them – including the internet.
Unlike other generations, seniors today did not grow up with the technology so readily available so they are learning how to best to use the internet and all it entails.
Of course, everyone knows to be cautious around strangers you meet in public, but when you’re online it’s sometimes easy to forget that there are just as many – if not more – strangers online that can be dangerous and harmful.
When it comes to family members and people we love, we want to keep them safe and make sure no one is taking advantage in a situation where a senior is learning how to navigate a new world. Here’s what you need to know about keeping seniors safe on the internet.
How to Keep Seniors Safe on the Internet
Avoid Personal Information
There are some websites out there that are trustworthy – like for filing taxes – where you are expected to put in personal information and it’s trusted.
However, there are other websites designed specifically for scamming people and tricking them into giving out their personal information. This includes information a scammer might need to take advantage or steal money from them, including a full name, address, social insurance numbers, date of birth, or credit card information.
When it comes to giving out personal information online, if you wouldn’t tell it to someone you just met walking down the street then you don’t need to give it out to someone online.
Social Media for Seniors
Social media websites – like Facebook – are a great platform for keeping in touch with friends and family that don’t live close to you physically.
Using social media is a way to share pictures and life events so the important people in your life and can be a great addition to anyone’s online life but sometimes people will use social media profiles to find out personal details of other people’s lives.
When setting up a profile on a website like Facebook, making sure your privacy settings are set up correctly is the best fight against intruders. All websites will give users the option to keep their profile private or to make it public.
With public settings, anyone with a profile on the website can see the information you post including the pictures of family and friends that you may not want everyone to see. Keeping your profile settings to private ensures only the people you want to see your information see it.
You may receive friend requests from people you don’t recognize. It does happen as a way for scammers to insert themselves into your life. The best rule of practice is to only add friends that you know in real life.
Online Dating for Seniors
Losing a spouse to illness, or even a divorce, could be a part of senior living and it only makes sense that today’s seniors could be looking for companionship and someone to spend their time with.
Online dating is a modern way of meeting a partner, but this concept is foreign to seniors who may have met their spouse through family or while they were in high school.
There are websites, like Our Time, dedicated to online dating for seniors so they will meet matches at the same life stage as they are. Dating websites have built-in chat features so that users can message back and forth without giving out their personal contact information – like a phone number.
If you do find a match you want to meet in person, make sure you meet in a public place and always tell a friend or family member where you’re going.
Send your trusted friend all the information you know about your date – including their name and phone number (if you have it).
Online dating is a great way to meet a partner or even friends to spend time with, unfortunately, not everyone is going to be as honest or sincere as we might expect them to be.
Emailing for Seniors
Emailing is today’s way of writing letters to our friends who aren’t close enough to personally visit, and there’s nothing more exciting than opening an email from a friend and reading all about what’s new in their life.
When writing an email to a friend, follow these general guidelines for making sure your information is protected
- Don’t put your full name, address, date of birth and social insurance number into an email – people you can trust and are friends with wouldn’t ask for this information
- Don’t give out a credit card number in an email
- Don’t give out all details in an email – it’s very exciting to share the news of a grandchild or if you’ve purchased a new home, but try to keep those details for phone conversations or in-person visits
- Do be cautious – if you don’t know the person you’re emailing in real life be careful
- Check the sender – do you know them? If you don’t recognize where the email is coming from be careful before responding.
- Is the email asking you for something? Reputable and real companies that you deal with won’t ask you for personal information to be sent via email.
Emailing is a great way to keep in touch, and it’s so much quicker than writing letters, but be careful of the details and personal information you share via email even when you do know the recipient.
All of our favorite stores have a website to shop from. Store websites often have sales not available in store and sometimes even have clothes that are exclusive to their website.
Those things coupled with easy return policies make it very easy and convenient to do your shopping online.
There are some websites you can order from that are less secure than others, and you could be at risk for someone getting your credit card information when you don’t intend for them too.
How do you know if the website you’re shopping on is safe?
Big stores that have a physical store have invested in developing a website that is safe and secure for their customers, so if it’s a store you’ve shopped in for years their website is likely to be as safe as possible.
Many websites also offer the option of paying through PayPal, which is a website that provides secure payment transfers for buyers and sellers.
Buying clothes for yourself and toys for your grandkids all from the comfort of your home is so convenient and fun. Keep your credit card and personal information protected by shopping on websites that have the Better Business Bureau badge posted so you know they’re held to higher standards of operations.
Are you being scammed?
Whether it’s in the form of an email or receiving a friend request from someone you don’t know, scamming happens online every day and many seniors are especially susceptible to it.
Recent scams involve emails being sent from email addresses that appear to be banking institutions stating there has been an issue with their information and asking the recipient to confirm information.
Any financial institution that is legitimate will not ask you to give out personal information and they won’t send it in an email. If you have questions about the legitimacy of an email, you can always call them to confirm what’s needed.
If you’ve been talking to a new friend online and they start mentioning they are struggling with money or even ask you to help pay their bills be very cautious in the proceeding.
Unfortunately, a number of seniors on dating sites meet matches who aren’t really interested in dating, but rather are looking for an easy way to make some money while remaining anonymous.
Since seniors are not always internet savvy they may be more trusting of people online than they should be. Scammers will write emails with pleas of needing help just to get by.
For many people, the natural reaction will be to want to help, but generations that have grown up with the internet know how easy it is to hide behind a computer screen and make up a story. Seniors may be more trusting and easily hand over personal information when it’s asked for.
When you stick to your gut when it comes it using the internet, it’s a good way to keep yourself safe. If, when you’re browsing online or doing some shopping, there’s something that pops up that doesn’t feel quite right then it probably isn’t.
Trusting your instincts, like you would with strangers on the street, is the best way to make sure you stay safe when you’re browsing online.
The internet is a great way to do some shopping, catch up with old friends, meet new ones, and potentially even find a partner for dating but just because you’re a good and honest person doesn’t mean everyone is going to be.
The internet is a place for scammers and criminals to take advantage of unsuspecting people, especially seniors. Trust your gut and to ask questions when you don’t feel comfortable.
The internet is an amazing way to explore the world from your very own home – enjoy and stay safe!