As people age, they often experience a decline in some of their physical abilities. This can include vision and hearing, making using the internet more difficult. In addition, older adults may not be as familiar with technology as younger generations, putting them at a greater risk for online scams and fraud.
Technology has become a crucial and positive life-enhancing tool for many older adults to stay engaged with family, friends, and community. As such, keeping aging parents safe online is an important task for adult children.
Benefits of the Internet for Seniors
Thanks to the Internet, you can stay in touch with family members, get medical information, manage appointments, renew subscriptions, and access medical records without leaving your home. The internet is how people across the world shop and bank.
Despite that reality, common concerns about keeping aging parents safe online are increasing.
According to an analysis by Pew Research Center, older adults are digitally more connected than ever, but adoption rates continue to trail that of younger users, and digital divides persist. The study also showed that 77% of older adults needed coaching when using technology.
Senior citizens and experienced professionals who interact with seniors increasingly prioritize information security, which helps improve safety. Below are some of the threats that seniors may encounter and some suggestions on keeping them safe.
Critical Ways to Keep Aging Parents Safe Online
- Secure Home Routers and Devices
- Use Strong Passwords
- Avoid Scams
- Beware of Dating Scams
- Take a Closer Look
- Do Not Share Personal Data
- Monitor Financial Accounts
- Offer Assistance Regularly
Secure Home Routers and Devices
Before connecting to your home network, change any default passwords used by the router and any default passwords used for connected devices.
Don’t forget about IoT (Internet of Things) devices. These are technologies that connect to your home network, including security cameras, health monitors, hearing aids, and smart TVs.These technologies are built with sensors or software that can connect and share data with other household gadgets, and each one must be secured to close privacy gaps.
The security of routers is important too, as these help protect the house from threats, regardless of whether other gadgets are connected to the household network.
Use Strong Passwords
Protect your devices, including desktops, laptops, peripherals, workstations, and personal digital assistants, by using strong passwords. Such passwords are also essential for your apps and accounts on social media, devices like other smartphones, your medical or financial portals, and any other combination you can imagine.
Employing a solid password is a practical first step in thwarting identity theft and fraud. Seniors need to have decades of passwords stored in one location, but this may be challenging to do. Comprehensive security software (like LastPass) allows users to store all their passwords and personal information in one place.
Some seniors take an analog approach instead, using a physical password book that they keep in a safe place. Doing so can be powerful, as a physical book can’t be hacked in the way that digital storage can.
Scams targeting retired people are currently a big concern. Indeed, watching out for scams is one of the most important parts of keeping aging parents safe online.
Con artists send messages that appear to be from genuine government agencies, banks, hospitals, brokerages, charities, and bill collectors, but they often take millions of dollars from retirees.
Thus, please do not respond to suspicious links included in these authorities unless they have been verified as legitimate. To confirm the legitimacy, visit the official site and search for a phone number to call.
Scammers can also send false emails from companies you currently do business with, even if it is a new email address. Some of these scams may be hard to identify. Before disclosing sensitive information, it might be worth confirming any request received over the phone with the institution and consulting with a family member or friend.
Scammers use fraudulent links to con individuals out of their money or perhaps private details that may be used to create lots of illegal accounts. So, don’t miss the opportunity to make all your devices genuinely secure.
Beware of Dating Scams
With more seniors joining the world of online dating, many scammers have turned their attention to defrauding innocent older adults looking for love. Seniors living on a limited budget may also find themselves more vulnerable.
Watch out for individuals that claim to be from the U.S. but frequently travel or work overseas. Additionally, avoid individuals who profess their love too rapidly and share their problems quickly, but refuse to meet face-to-face.
It’s wise to get some dating tips for senior adults from your family and friends before establishing a relationship with a new person. It will help you figure out your boundaries and learn about the individual you desire to meet.
Take a Closer Look
Fraud-ridden internet sites look very real today. Look for HTTPS in the address field on your PC or smartphone. The “s,” as in “secure,” refers to a particular security certificate. If the web address is just HTTP, it is probably not secure.
And if you’re not sure of the site, read reviews made by other users before making any purchase from those sites. Do not send cash, a cashier’s check, or a personal check to any online merchant. When buying, always use a credit card just in case there’s something to worry about. This way, if there is an issue, you can contact your credit card company and get transactions reversed.
Do Not Share Personal Data
Watch out for emails and websites that ask you to provide your Social Security number, telephone number, address, or other personal information. These include fun social media quizzes, which can provide cybercriminals with your personal information, such as your pet’s name, the year you were born, or your hometown.
Such information may be used to perpetrate identity theft.
Monitor Financial Accounts
To detect fraudulent activity on your financial records, you should review all statements thoroughly. If you discover any suspicious transactions, report them to your bank or credit card company right away. It’s also necessary to place a fraud alert on your accounts so that you can receive alerts about suspected criminal activity.
Offer Assistance Regularly
If you know a senior and want to assist them, consider offering them a shoulder to lean on. It is essential to check in with your older family members and friend when you notice them growing concerned or falling behind in some instances. If you’re considered tech savvy, and nobody in your family is, this might be the perfect opportunity for you to check in with your friends.
Media such as YouTube offers helpful, brief videos for any concerns you might have. Apple and Microsoft stores provide valuable advice in addition to services for their products on their websites. Locate their official portals to access appropriate tech support channels.
Finally, as you work on keeping aging parents safe online, remember to be kind and patient. The internet can be a confusing place at times and users don’t always know what they’re doing. If your aging parent falls victim to a scam or makes a bad decision, don’t berate them, simply help them to solve the problem.
Getting angry at them with them doesn’t help with the issue at all and may make the senior less likely to confide in you when they need to.
These approaches all help to keep aging adults safe online. The process is important, as scams or fraud can easily lead to financial loss.
Plus, helping seniors to use the internet well and safely is a critical way to keep them connected with friends and family members. The best way to stay safe is simply by knowing how technology works. Having support when things go wrong is important too. By being vigilant and using caution, your aging parents can enjoy the many benefits that the internet offers while minimizing the risk of being scammed or becoming a victim of identity theft.