When it comes to technology, it’s good to be cautious, but it’s better to be educated. If you’re a senior looking to become more tech-savvy, congratulations! Technology can keep you more connected to your loved ones, up-to-date on current events, and it can even give you access to medical records and important files. Still, a healthy amount of caution for technology is necessary, which is why this guide walks you through safety tips for:
Basic Safety for Computers
Even though more and more people are using smartphones and tablets for online browsing, many seniors find comfort in the familiarity of a computer. Often, the screens are easier to see and read, and the bigger keyboard is easier for those who suffer from arthritis.
- Security Software: Keep your computer safe and secure by installing security software, and keep it up-to-date. Most types of security software have an auto-update feature, but you’ll likely need to enable it. This ensures you always have the latest version and the best protection.
- Password Protected: Enable a password on your computer so that no one else can use it without authorization.
The internet is unimaginably big and filled with wonderful, amazing information that you can get at the click of a button. However, there is a dark side to the internet. Be mindful of these suggestions to keep you safe while surfing the internet from any device:
- Social Media Privacy: Take care in what you post on social media sites like Facebook. Before you begin posting, be sure to thoroughly read about the social media provider’s privacy settings.
- Downloading Software: Avoid downloading software from a brand that you are unfamiliar with or that is free. While some are safe, many come with spyware that can slow or even crash your computer.
- Online Harassment: Cyberbullying isn’t just a teenage epidemic. Seniors are susceptible, too. Be sure you know how to report abuse on the network or forum. Try not to fan the flames with any kind of response.
Chances are, you have a computer right in your pocket — an iPhone or Android smartphone. Sure, you may use it to call your son every once in awhile, but most people use their smartphones for surfing the web, checking social media, sending emails and text messaging. With so much to say and do on a smartphone, you want to be sure everything is locked up tightly — including the apps you use. Here are a few tips for a safer smartphone:
- Screen Lock + Password: Use a screen lock to allow entry to your phone. Your phone might use a passcode, a fingerprint or face recognition as security.
- Trusted Wi-Fi Networks: Connect only to trusted Wi-Fi networks. Hackers can easily tap into free Wi-Fi, so be sure that when using public networks, the connection is one you know and trust.
- Automatic Lock: Make sure your device locks itself automatically, so if you accidentally leave it on the bus or at the doctor’s office, no one can access your information, even if you didn’t intentionally lock it.
- Illegitimate Calls: Beware of calls from people claiming to be a government entity and requesting payment information or stating you owe money.
Safely Staying in Touch through Email
Email is a great way to keep in touch with friends and family that you don’t see every day. You don’t have to wait several days for a letter to arrive in the mail, and most email service providers are free, which saves you the cost of postage. However, emails can also come with some safety concerns that seniors especially want to be on the lookout for:
- Attachments: Don’t open attachments from addresses you don’t recognize. Attachments can transmit viruses to your computer the moment you open them. Sometimes, these viruses are clever and appear to come from people you may know. If you even slightly suspect an attachment is off, don’t open it before talking to the sender.
- Sender: Never trust any email that asks you to give the sender personal or account information. Remember, no bank or respectable financial company will ever ask for any personal information via email.
- Be realistic — someone you don’t know doesn’t actually want to give you money. Don’t trust an email from anyone you don’t know who is trying to help you make money. Do not send them any personal information, like your birth date, Social Security number or banking information.
Emails are one of the main ways that scammers try to take advantage of seniors and other internet users. You can limit their impact by being aware and cautious of how online scams work.
Keeping an Eye Out for Scams
It’s sad but true — technology is riddled with scams, from emails asking for banking info to phone calls looking for your medical information. Unfortunately, seniors are often the target of scams, which is why you need to be twice as prepared and cautious. When using technology, avoid scams by:
- Releasing personal information: Never entering your information into a site that looks similar to your bank or credit card company, but with a different website address. Rather than clicking on a link in an email, use Google or another search engine to find the real one.
- Clickable text: Being cautious about clickable text warning you against fraud. Just because a sender warns you to be careful doesn’t mean they are legitimate. Remember, anyone can falsely claim to be offering you a safe and secure link.
- Strange requests for help: Avoiding helping someone you don’t know. You have a big heart, and when someone reaches out for money or help, you might be inclined to offer it. Be cautious. As much as you may want to respond, the odds are that it’s a scam.
- Links: Never clicking on a link from an email and entering in private information to the site it directs you to, even if the webpage looks and feels secure. This is a scam called phishing, and it gives hackers access to your username and password — along with whatever you’re trying to protect.
Scams are pervasive, but it can get easier to recognize them if you have a cautious eye. Protecting your information is key to keeping scammers at bay.
Protecting Private Information
From your date of birth to the PIN for your bank account, there are many reasons to use personal information online. You can file your taxes, pay bills, purchase gifts and even review recent health test results. However, the more that’s out there, the more you have to protect. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:
- Passwords: Create unique and strong passwords that include upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters whenever possible. Never reveal your password to anyone online, and be certain that reputable companies will never ask you to.
- Personal Identification Requests: Be extra cautious when anyone asks you to provide your date of birth, Social Security number or bank account information.
- Double check accounts: Monitor your bank accounts regularly so you can catch unusual activity right away.
- Only shop using reputable sites: Avoid online shopping at retailers that are not established or haven’t been
If you’re still unsure of your tech-savvy skills, sign up for a computer class at your local library, senior center or college. Technology can be a huge benefit to your quality of life, like letting you stay in touch with loved ones or communicating with medical professionals with ease, but you must handle it with care. When in doubt, always stop what you’re doing and ask someone you trust for their opinion.