The internet offers a wealth of opportunities to learn new information, entertain yourself or stay connected with friends and family. However, while you’re enjoying everything the online world has to offer, safety should always be a top priority. With that in mind, here’s what you need to know about internet safety, as well as some simple online safety tips for seniors.
Are Seniors Safe Online?
Of course seniors can use the internet safely! However, for a variety of reasons, seniors are often targeted by scammers because of their perceived financial status, technical knowhow and even their perceived demeanor.
Here are some of the common reasons seniors are targeted by scammers:
Reason #1: Access to Money
Thieves often target seniors online because they believe that older adults have larger savings accounts. Additionally, seniors are more likely to have additional assets like retirement accounts, property and other sources of wealth. Criminals see this as an opportunity to profit quickly.
Additional benefits like Medicare and Social Security make seniors a prime target for scammers, too. Medicare loses approximately $60 billion each year due to fraud.
Reason #2: Perceived Lack of Technological Knowledge
Despite the myth that seniors are technologically illiterate, the perceived lack of understanding can make seniors a target for scammers. However, even the most tech-savvy internet users—even those who aren’t seniors—can fall victim to more sophisticated scam techniques. This highlights the need for all internet users to stay informed, but applies even more so to older adults.
Reason #3: Personality and Demeanor
Many seniors are often kind, trustworthy and ready to help those in need. However, criminals use this to their advantage by preying on good-natured individuals looking to make a positive impact. This is illustrated in the case of the common grandparent scam, where scam artists will contact an older adult and exploit their love for their family to steal money.
Online Safety Tips for Seniors
Fortunately, if you know how to avoid scams online, you don’t have to be one of the millions of people who are scammed each year. Even better, the methods for avoiding scams don’t require a great deal of technical knowledge or special training. Here are some tips for staying safe online.
Keep a Healthy Level of Skepticism
Always approach unusual situations with a reasonable level of suspicion. Scammers commonly impersonate law enforcement, government officials, financial institutions, recognized brands or even family members and friends. If you find yourself communicating with someone you think you know, be aware of any behavior that seems out of character. If you’re communicating with someone pretending to be a government official, it’s helpful to understand how organizations like the IRS will actually interact with taxpayers.
Don’t Open or Click Unknown Links
Never open unusual emails, click unknown links or respond to suspicious text messages. Phishing is a common method scammers use to illegally obtain personal or financial information from their victims. Illegitimate messages may not always be easy to spot, so be cautious.
Never Send Information or Money Without Proper Verification
Scammers will use a variety of methods to try to collect your personal information. Never send confidential information through unsecured emails.
Be on the lookout for red flags, such as when someone is contacting you to request money. Scammers often ask for wire transfers, store gift cards or reloadable money cards, as these are more difficult for law enforcement to track.
Keep Your Technology Up to Date
One of the most basic steps to ensuring your online safety is to keep all of your electronic devices up to date with the latest security patches. For most devices, this can be done automatically, and the process for enabling updates is very simple. While this won’t cover all of your security needs, it can help prevent vulnerabilities in your devices which bad actors may try to exploit.
Speak Up If You’ve Been Scammed
It’s estimated that only 15% of the nation’s fraud victims report that a crime has been committed. This often leaves victims emotionally or financially impacted with no recourse. However, if you’ve been scammed, you’re not alone, and it’s not your fault. You can report a scam if you’ve been a victim. Not only can you receive the justice you deserve, but you can also prevent others from experiencing the same negative outcomes.
Join Our Community at Edgemere
Located in Dallas, Texas, our welcoming retirement community here at Edgemere features exquisite dining and premier wellness programs to help you get the most out of your retirement years. We often host informative talks of interest to older adults, including sharing tips about online safety and personal security.