The internet knows everything, from the answer to every question we have ever had, to our passwords, to what our children look like in photos on Facebook. With all of the information that is circulating around the Internet, it's more important than ever that we understand the impact of technology on our lives. Technology and the ever-changing internet do not have to be scary. There is no need to stop scrolling through your Facebook feed and its ok to order your favorite items from Amazon. But, let’s be safe and aware while doing so.
There has been a recent spike in the number of older adults that spend time online. According to a report by Pew Research Center, 42% of Americans aged 65 and older own a smartphone, and over half have broadband at home. The increase goes to show that older Americans are as capable of engaging online as younger generations. Unfortunately, with that increase comes the inherent risk of the internet, coupled with the fact that internet scammers disproportionately target older adults due to the fact that older adults tend to be wealthier, more trusting, and less likely to report fraud. Additionally, an FBI report from 2015 found that older adults lose $36.5 billion each year to online financial scams. We don’t have to say goodbye to our beloved newsfeeds or to the ease of online purchasing, we just have to follow a few safety precautions in order to avoid falling into any online traps.
Unique Passwords: The Key to Protection
Passwords are the key to our privacy. They give us access to all sorts of website, protect our checking accounts, and let us into our phones and computers. Most people try to keep their passwords protected in their heads. The problem with this is that if you can keep track of all your passwords in your head, they’re probably a bit too simple and you are most likely using the same password for all of your accounts. While it may be the easiest approach, it isn’t the safest approach. The best way to keep your information safe online is to use complex and difficult to decipher passwords for every account that you have. A complex password is a password that is comprised of a combination of upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols. Don’t use a string of common words, your pet's name, or your birthday. Instead, create random and unmemorable passwords and never repeat the same password for multiple accounts.
Of course, that sounds like a lot of work. How are you supposed to remember a complex string of letters, numbers and symbols that was created with the purpose of being unmemorable? Well, you aren’t. This is where password management apps come in. Services such as Passpack, 1Pass, and LastPass exist to hold all of our passwords for us. Of course, these services must be secured with complex passwords of their own, but using the services will leave you with only one password to recall rather than several.
Internet Safety for Seniors
Do not click on any links that you do not recognize. If an unfamiliar email appears in your inbox your best bet will be to delete it. Scammers typically use emails that appear to come from your bank, credit card company, insurance company, or government organizations. This practice is called ‘phishing’ and the links usually look entirely legitimate, but it’s actually criminals attempting to get access to your personal information. If you aren’t certain that the email or link is legitimate, you should google the web address or contact the organization directly.
Similar to unfamiliar links appearing in your inbox, you should always be wary of any ‘prizes’ you may win. If you get an email, a social media notification, or a random page popping up on your web browser claiming that you have won a contest that you didn’t enter, any amount of money, or an all expenses paid vacation… it isn’t real! If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Close out of the page as quickly as possible, delete the email or notification and look away. Maybe one day you will win a free vacation, but it most likely will not come in the form of a pop-up webpage.
Stay Safe While Online Shopping
Only enter your credit card information on reputable online retailers. If you are purchasing something from a retailer that you have never heard of be sure to do your research. Do not plug your information in just anywhere. If you are unsure or doubtful about the website’s reputability you can search for reviews online. A quick google search of the company name and ‘is this a real website?’ will let you know whether the retailer has a positive and secure reputation.
Facebook: How Personal Information Can Make You a Target
Facebook makes it incredibly easy to release any personal information that you might have. On Facebook, people constantly post photos of themselves and their loved ones, share their hometown, or post ‘check-in’ updates with locations attached. Remain aware of what you are sharing online, and most importantly with whom. If you do share personal information, ensure that your account has privacy settings turned on so that only your friends can see what you are posting. Furthermore, stay away from strangers online. If you are chatting with someone that you don’t know, be very conscious of the information you share. Someone may appear to be a sweet and normal person, but it is incredibly easy to present a falsified Facebook account. Your best bet is to stay away and to not open any attachments or links from them.
Facebook grants us the freedom to share what we want, when we want and how we want. With that freedom comes the fact that everything that you share online will be directly associated with you and it’s most likely not going anywhere. The things you post online stay there forever, so be confident in everything that you are sharing. If you are wary of posting something that presents a particular view or belief, it might be something that you later regret. Only post what you feel good about posting and share what you feel is a positive reflection of yourself.
The beauty of Facebook is that we can share what we wish, the opposite of that beauty is the fact that others are also free to share whatever they want, and sometimes those viewpoints may clash. You can picture this as a unique opportunity to share a space with someone who disagrees with you. You can choose a conversation with a stranger on a Facebook post to be an opportunity to learn about another perspective. But sometimes these conversations go south, and things can get heated pretty quickly. If you feel as though someone is speaking to you negatively, saying hurtful, angry, or accusatory things to you, just back away. Don’t respond, block the user, and reach out to someone close to you to report the behavior. Social media companies have employees that respond to complaints like these, so reach out if you feel as though the behavior is inappropriate.
Be Aware to Protect Yourself
The people who attempt to scam and steal are professionals. They can target you and they know what to keep an eye out for, but thankfully, so do you. The internet is a wonderful tool that can be used to explore so much. It allows you to reconnect with some people and stay in contact with others. A computer is like an encyclopedia, full of information. There is so much that the internet has to offer, and you do not want to miss out due to the receival of falsified information. The most important piece of information to remember is that you have the ability to protect yourself. If you know what to watch out for, who to be cautious of and how to secure your information you should be able to freely access the internet.