Tips for protecting elderly relatives from online scams
The rise of the internet and digital technology has connected the world like never before, but unfortunately, not all people use these online resources for good. Now not only are there scammers walking around in person looking to steal valuable information and belongings, but there are also a growing number of criminals preying on vulnerable internet users, especially those who are aging and may not understand the risks.
That’s why it’s so important that people of all ages take precautions while sharing information online. If you have elderly loved ones who use a computer or phone, it helps to maintain open communication and let them know about common scams and how to best stay safe online. These tips for protecting seniors from online scams should help your family and friends, too.
1. Talk to them regularly about technology
Constantly changing technology can be tough for anyone to keep up with, let alone seniors who don’t grow up with the internet. The more you can share with seniors about the internet and how it works, the better understanding they will have and the more likely they will be to notice anything suspicious.
2. Make sure they understand the risk
This one may be challenging because you want your elderly loved ones to feel comfortable using the internet but you also want them to understand the risks of sharing personal information online. Be patient with them and open up a clear line of communication in case they come across anything suspicious while online.
3. Install antivirus
Oftentimes scammers will use malware to put viruses on computers and steal sensitive information. That’s why everyone should have antivirus installed on their devices, especially seniors who may be less familiar with obvious cybersecurity threats.
4. Don’t click links in messages unless they verify it’s from who they think
All it takes is one bad link for scammers to gain access to your loved one’s personal details and digital devices. Show them a few examples of suspicious links so they know what to look for, especially on social media sites like Facebook where accounts are often hacked.
5. Monitor email accounts
With your loved one’s permission, it may be worthwhile to have access to their email accounts. This is particularly true if your family member or friend needs help navigating their emails and may not understand the difference between a legitimate message and junk mail.
6. Check social media settings
If your aging parent, grandparent, or aunt/uncle wants to be on social media, have a look at their privacy settings to make sure they aren’t sharing personal information with just anyone. Give them a few pointers about only adding people they know and being careful who they talk to.
7. Watch for browser alerts
If you’re surfing the web and click on a suspicious site, your browser should alert you and tell you not to continue. Make sure the browsers are regularly updated on all your family’s devices to ensure this extra level of protection and remind your relatives to never keep clicking if a warning pops up.
8. Choose passwords carefully
Help your elderly loved one get set up for online success with well-thought-out login details, especially passwords. Explain to them how to choose a password that’s highly secure but also easy enough to remember. When possible, help them with security login questions so they can manage account access to their banking and healthcare information as well as email and social media accounts.
9. Keep phone numbers private
Seniors who are relatively new to social media may be tempted to share more than they should online, so gently remind your loved ones to keep sensitive information like their phone number and address to themselves. Explain how scammers look for phone numbers so they can send bad links and steal identities. If your loved one actually understands what could happen if they share too much online, they may think twice before posting personal information.
10. Research before buying
Scammers see online shopping as an opportunity to target everyday people, which is why it’s important to talk to your older loved ones about safe shopping habits. Encourage them to read reviews and lookup business names before buying, and maybe even run certain purchases past you if they aren’t sure. A few simple checks before checking out can give you peace of mind it’s a legit online store rather than a scam.
11. Consult on large purchases
If your loved one wants to make a big purchase, whether it be new appliances or a tropical vacation, ask them to tell you ahead of time. This way you can do your own research as a family to ensure everything lines up. This is very important for medication too, as any so-called healthcare deals online should be discussed with doctors first.
12. Remind about official correspondence
Online scammers use email and text messages to convince innocent victims to provide their personal information or buy something that isn’t as it seems. Let your loved ones know that the government and any official organization won’t ask for sensitive details over email or text, so they know if they get an odd request, it’s a scam.
13. Keep an eye on finances
If you are the caregiver for an elderly loved one, then you should make sure you check in on their financial accounts regularly. This way you can pick up on anything that seems amiss, such as unexpected transfers or purchases. The sooner you can catch any suspicious activity or scams, the sooner you can mitigate the damage and protect your family member’s future.
14. Check in regularly
Last but not least, let your elderly loved ones know they can always come to you with any concerns about online scams. Touch base on new scam trends, especially anything highlighted by the FBI or BBB, so they know what to look out for. If your loved one feels like they can come to you with any concerns, they are more likely to stay safe online.