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Tips to safeguard older individuals against hackers and scams

Online Security for Older Individuals Begins with Awareness

Most of us find ourselves accessing the internet multiple times each day. Whether it’s to conduct online shopping, booking vacations or doctor’s appointments, we rely on the web as a conduit to handle many aspects of our daily lives.

The days of only young people using the web are over. Today individuals of all ages are experiencing the convenience of the internet. And, while it can be a helpful source of information for everyone, there are also potential dangers.

Older individuals who are less web-savvy or experiencing mild cognitive decline are more susceptible to internet scams, security breaches, and identity theft.

Unfortunately, web crimes against older individuals continue to increase. The IC3 (Internet Crime Complaint Center) reported that in 2022 $3.1 billion was lost to cybercrimes by individuals sixty and older. Those crimes included bogus “technical support” scams and overall internet fraud.

If you have an elderly parent or other loved one, especially if they are experiencing some cognitive loss, you can help to safeguard them against costly internet scams and fraud.

Here are five tips to pass along from The National Council on Aging:

  • Don’t engage with emails, text messages, or social media posts from senders you don’t know. A simple click can open up an opportunity for fraud. Even when you open a text message or email from someone you do know, proceed carefully. If the message seems odd in any way, either overly general or inappropriate, close it and, if possible, mark it as spam.
  • Don’t open attachments you weren’t expecting to receive. Attachments are perfect vehicles for hackers to plant malware, a piece of code which is designed to launch an attack on the victim’s operating system and applications.
  • Don’t respond to robo-calls. It is easy for scammers to make false claims about bank accounts or other entities to instill fear in the individual and entice them to respond. This is often done through automated calls or text messages. Hang up and contact the company directly.
  • Ignore pop-up windows on phones and computers. One common hacker practice is “scareware”. It uses pop-ups to scare the victim into downloading and paying for phony software or servicees. Victims are often told to call a number to secure their PC or phone, only to be asked for financial information.

Chasity Robinson Mwangi, senior community relations director at Anthem’s Morningside Place Memory Care in Overland, Kansas, was recently interviewed by Porch, and had a few additional tips:

  • Use strong passwords. There are password management programs that can help keep track of them.
  • Make sure all your programs and apps are regularly updated. Updates often include greater security measures.
  • Never share personal information online. Be wary of offers that seem too good to be true. They usually are.

You can read more of Chasity’s interview on Porch here.

Older Americans have worked hard all their lives to be able to afford to retire and enjoy life. Hackers and other cyber-criminals are always coming up with new ways to exploit and rob them of their nest eggs. Make sure you are doing everything possible to protect yourself and loved ones from becoming a victim. Stay informed. Be alert. That is the best way to enjoy the many benefits of the internet while staying safe and secure.