The Senior Adviser
Internet Safeguards for Seniors
Safeguarding personal information is extremely important. Unfortunately, there are unsavory people prowling the Internet, and some would like nothing more than to abscond with credit card information, passwords, and/or private data. Although everyone is a potential target, seniors might especially be at risk. The reason? Many seniors have built a comfortable nest egg. In addition, individuals 65 and over often have an enviable credit rating. The said combination sometimes makes this demographic particularly appealing to unscrupulous individuals.
Although the Internet can be a breeding ground for deceit, it is important to mention that some deceptive practices are less damaging than others. For example, tracking cookies are small text files which detect (track) a user’s site preferences. This certainly is not a welcomed thing, but neither will it empty the bank. Other practices deliberately seek to steal information for the purpose of fraud.
What can you do to protect yourself? The list below outlines some basic suggestions:
Refuse to click. If you receive an e-mail or pop-up message from a supposedly trusted source like a bank, online retailer, PayPal, etc., do not click on the link in the correspondence (or provide any personal information). Sometimes the e-mail may even suggest that the message is being sent to protect you from fraudsters. As the text attempts to garner your trust, you are then asked to update your personal file; this is called phishing. Phishing scams seek out personal information for dishonest purposes. Banks and other legitimate institutions typically do not request private information within the context of an e-mail. If you have any questions about the legitimacy of an e-mail, make sure to call the respective institution and inquire. However, do not use the number provided in the questionable post. Instead use a trusted number accessed by directory assistance, a bill or bank statement, or the yellow pages.
Make certain a business is credible. Sometimes you might find a fabulous new night cream or antique sword for a great price. Naturally, you instinctively wish to purchase the item. Buyer beware! Investigate the vendor before giving out personal information and/or credit card numbers. Look up vendor reviews for credibility, and call the business directly to ask questions. If you cannot reach the vendor or access reviews, then forgo the sale. Sadly, there are online thieves who masquerade themselves as honest business people.
Install a comprehensive security system. Many of us realize that our personal computers should have virus protection and a firewall to keep out intruders. However, it is also wise to include a package that includes spyware protection (so private information will not be gathered), system guard (which alerts computer users to changes), script screening (which guards against sinister scripts), and personal identity protection (which works to prohibit the transmission of private information).
Finally, let’s examine some additional measures that could safeguard your online experience.
Be sure to keep your Internet browser and operating system current. Set both to download updates automatically. When choosing passwords for Internet access, banking, etc., do not select words from the dictionary. Instead, use a combination of numbers and letters. Moreover, change your passwords regularly. Protecting your identity is tantamount to happiness. A strong defense lends to blissful browsing.
Ross Capobianco is president of Home Instead Senior Care — a provider of home care services to seniors living north of Boston. He can be reached at 781-662-2273 or email@example.com.