As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep people isolated from their friends and loved ones, we have become increasingly reliant on technology to stay connected and stave off the gloominess of life in seclusion. From FaceTime on our phones to meetings conducted through Zoom, we’ve made use of a variety of digital tools to reach out to people who would otherwise be inaccessible. One group that has made the most of these tech solutions is our senior community, which is at a higher risk for severe illnesses brought on by COVID-19. Granted, seniors were already becoming increasingly tech-savvy in recent years, with studies finding that roughly 70% of adults age 65+ were active online and around three-quarters saying that they use the internet on a daily basis. However, with the current pandemic now keeping senior adults away from their families, there is an increased incentive to branch out to new communication methods.
Inevitably, with more seniors online than ever before, there are also more people at risk from hackers and scammers that prey upon people who struggling during these trying times. Staying safe online can be difficult no matter how experienced you are with modern technology, and with many elderly internet users having memory problems or some form of dementia, it can be that much more of a challenge. In addition, many cybercriminals have created scams specifically targeting lonely seniors who are less informed about the internet. As such, it is important for older internet users to take some precautions in order to stay safe while they stay connected!
If you’re a senior who is relatively new to the internet and the many ways it lets you communicate with others, keep these ten cyber safety tips in mind.
Be on the lookout for phishing scams! By using fraudulent emails, pop-ups, texts, and phone calls, scammers can trick users into disclosing personal information, including passwords and account details. Always be wary of links that request your information, especially if you aren’t already familiar with the source. Even if it claims to be from a website you know, be sure to double check the URL to make sure it’s the real thing.
Ignore offers COVID-19 treatments or vaccines! Scientists are working on solutions to combat the virus, but they aren’t going to report their findings through an unsolicited email or advert. Hackers and scammers know that people are desperate for a cure and will take advantage of that interest to steal people’s information.
Only go to reputable sources for COVID-19 information! For example, the World Health Organization is one of the top authorities on the current situation. Be aware however that scammers have sent emails claiming to be from WHO, often asking for personal information or “donations.” WHO does not ask for personal information and doesn’t send attachments you didn’t ask for, so keep that in mind.
Use long and unique passwords for your online accounts! It might be easier to remember one universal password for all of your online accounts, but that also means that if a scammer gets ahold of one password, they have ALL of your passwords. Additionally, don’t put your passwords in a file that can be easily found by others.
Avoid opening attachments unless you know the sender’s identity! Scammers will sometimes imitate friends or family members by sending messages from a spoofed account. If someone you know sends a message with a suspicious-looking attachment, consider calling or texting them before opening it.
Back up your files to an external hard drive or a cloud storage option! Just as you should never put all your eggs in one basket, you should never leave your data on one device. Between external storage like hard drives or flash drives or the many cloud services currently available, it’s always a good idea to have backups of your most valuable files.
Keep your computers, mobile devices, and cybersecurity software updated! Tech companies are constantly trying to keep up with hackers and cyber-criminals, introducing updates that fix bugs and counteract new viruses. You should always make sure that you are up to date, otherwise you are opening yourself up to unnecessary risks.
Whenever possible, implement multi-factor authentication! MFA is an option where you are required to complete a second step to verify who you are when logging into an account. This can include answering certain questions or entering a code sent to you by text. This ensures that even if someone does get a hold of your passwords, they don’t automatically have access to your account.
Ask your more tech-savvy family members for advice! If you are relatively new to online communication, call a family member with a bit more technical know-how. Not only can this help you learn the technology needed to help keep in touch with your loved ones, but this learning opportunity is a good bonding experience as well.
Don’t be afraid to come forward if you’ve been the victim of a scam! One of the biggest reasons that cyber-criminals target older internet users is that they are less likely to report on a scam. They often feel embarrassed or worry about seeming incapable of handling their financial affairs. It is your duty to report online fraud cases, not only for our own sake but to protect others as well!
The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for everyone and has emphasized just how important it is to stay connected with the people we care about most. Thankfully there are many wonderful new technologies out there makes staying in touch so much easier, so as long you follow these online safety tips, living in self-isolation doesn’t have to be lonely or dull.
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