Being part of the world today includes being part of technology, even as it often changes and advances and can be difficult to navigate. When using technologies like computers, the Internet, and phones, it’s crucial to use them safely and cautiously. It’s important to be educated about how your security and privacy can be violated by scams and fraud.
Below are four ways seniors can protect themselves when using the computer, Internet, and phone.
Secure Computer Use
Protect your computer from malware or virus
Malware can be a virus, spyware, and other softwares that slow or shut down your computer, or worse. It’s good to know what to do if your computer is targeted, but even better would be to take measures of prevention. You can prevent malware by taking these foundational actions: disable pop-ups and ads; use up-to-date security software; do your best to visit only secure websites; and choose strong, confidential passwords. Never give someone remote access to your computer and don’t hesitate to consult a professional to learn how to put these preventative measures in place.
Beware of Email scams
Once you’re actively preventing malware, it’s time to protect yourself when using the Internet’s features. Email is one of the most common places where seniors are taken advantage of or led into scams and fraud. Beware of emails that claim you’ve won a lottery or free prize, or email addresses from people who claim to be someone you know, especially if their words and tone seem different or unfamiliar. Do not respond to emails that make threats or ultimatums and demand your money or personal information. When in doubt, delete and don’t respond. And don’t hesitate to ask for a second, trusted opinion.
Safe Phone Use
Personal information protection
In the past, infomercials and television networks like QVC required a phone call and personal information to make a purchase. It’s easy to be led astray by legitimate-sounding phone calls when before you wouldn’t have thought twice. People can abuse your trust in these past phone practices and gain access to your banking information, insurance plan details, and other private information that can make you a victim of fraud.
Resist the temptation to give out private information over the phone. Keep a clear head when handling phone calls that make threats to you or your family, offer “special” insurance deals, request charity donations, or claim you owe money and information to a company. Even if the company is familiar, be on the lookout for misrepresentation (such as a person pretending they are from the IRS or Medicare). If you feel pressured or nervous, hang up and have these numbers blocked.
Protection from scams and misrepresentation
It is not possible to learn every single way you could be scammed, blackmailed, or deceived into disclosing information or giving money, but that doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause. Be as educated as possible and rely on people you know and trust. If you doubt someone who claims to be from a company, contact the company through an official phone number and speak to someone who can either confirm the caller’s identity or validate your suspicion. If someone calls with a threat to a family member, hang up right away and call that specific family member or someone who can be in contact with them. If you have a social worker or trusted caregiver, ask for their advice for how to handle a suspicious phone call. It can be difficult to distinguish who is legitimate and who is not. Don’t be afraid to ask someone you trust for help.
No matter the situation, it’s important to protect your private information and peace of mind. But it can be hard to be safe while using the Internet or answering seemingly-innocent phone calls. That doesn’t mean you can’t be part of the world and technology. Do the best you can to set up a support system of people you trust, become educated about preventative measures, and don’t be embarrassed if you have to ask for help.
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