When we discuss Internet safety we often are focused on kids and teens, but remember that new users of any age could be targets of online scams and predators. Internet safety is important to all of us, but it is most important to educate all new users of online resources so that they can avoid common scams. We are careful to teach our children about the dangers of the Internet, but we need to remember that our older relatives might need some help in protecting themselves and their property while they are learning new technologies.
Your grandmother or elderly neighbor might have recently joined social media sites such as Facebook because she got a new smartphone. Seniors are often targeted because they tend to have assets and they are thought to be more vulnerable to manipulation by con artists.
For example, one scam involves Facebook messages that pretend to be from Facebook friends but in fact are coming from scammers who have gained access to your friends’ accounts. They prey upon friends and family by saying that their loved ones have been trapped overseas with a lost wallet and they need money. Most of us would not trust a come-on like this if they were dealing with this in person or on the phone, but some elderly people don’t realize these are scams when the con artist is pretending to be someone they know.
So how can you stay safe online, no matter what age? When my husband and I were writing our book, Digitally Daunted, we tried to explain good security as an approach instead of specific steps for all of the different online interactions. We used the example of a package of cookies being delivered to your front door with a note saying "From Mom.” Put on your skeptical hat before biting into the first one. Would your mom deliver cookies to your door? Is that the type of note she would leave? If you thought they were from your mom, wouldn't you call her first and say, "Hi, did you bring cookies to my front door?"
Online scams tantalize things we all want—who doesn't love cookies?— but if things seem fishy either in the price, method of communication or delivery then we should be suspicious. As we lock our houses, we should be sure to lock our accounts with strong passwords. Don't click on a link just because someone sends you one.
Here are some resources with tips for seniors about Internet safety:
- Using the Internet Safely for Dummies Cheat Sheet and suggested links
- Internet Safety for Seniors Resources from the Washington State's Attorney's Office