Cyber-Safety and Online Security for Seniors
Mom and Dad and even your grandparents may be online. Help keep them safe.
Your kids are online, you surf the web, and now Mom and Dad are logging on. Even your grandparents may be spending part of their day online. But, do these seniors understand how to protect themselves from the lawless frontier we call the internet?
Your kids should know, because you probably taught them. And you know a spam email when you see it. But many seniors are new to the digital world, and they may be likely to fall for the latest in “black hat” tactics. So what can you do?
Teach your Mom and Dad, your grandparents, and Aunt Sally, so they won’t fall victim to scams. They may trust questionable sites and freely give information through opt-in modules when they shouldn’t.
You can help protect the seniors in your family by teaching them to use the web safely, to protect personal information, and to recognize a scam when they see it. Patience and a low-key approach work best when working with elder family members to keep them cyber-safe.
1. Skip the technical specs
Many seniors don’t know a terabyte from a pterodactyl, but they don’t have to. They probably don’t need to know anything about their computers except where the ON/OFF button is. So skip the confusing technical jargon, even if you’re proud of understanding it. Instead, focus on safe web-use practices, which are key to protecting seniors from online scams
2. Don’t overload the circuits
There’s a lot to learn about computer safety: smart practices, common scams, password creation and protection, routine “dangers” of web-based transactions and more. Don’t try to teach everything at once and overload the circuits of your Mom’s brain. Remember, you may know how to send an email attachment. You may do it every day, but this is all new information to many seniors, so go slowly.
Teach one new tip every few days, and let each tip become part of parents’ web use naturally. Too much information at once is just as confusing as no information at all.
3. Make computer settings safe
You can make adjustments to a parent’s computer to help protect Mom or Dad from the latest scam, virus, worm or other web-based dangers without parents even knowing.
- Set your parents’ spam filter to ‘HIGH’ to keep out as much spam as possible from reaching their in-box.
- Explain the kind of information hackers want: names, addresses, passwords, credit card numbers, bank account numbers and other personal information. Explain that this information should never be given out to an unknown source.
- Explain how to make a safe purchase online. Buying online is a great tool for seniors who may not be able to get out as much as they once did. Teach parents what to look for when moving through the “check-out” of an online store – trust sites that have either the VeriSign® emblem.
4. Explain the importance of passwords and help parents create strong passwords
- Passwords should include letters, numbers and symbols to make it more difficult to hack into any account.
- Keep passwords private. Don’t give them out to friends or family and don’t tape them to a computer to help with a fading memory.
- Change passwords every few months. Teach parents how to change their passwords on sensitive sites – websites that contain personal information in their databases.
5. Talk about parents’ computer activity
No interrogations or accusations. Just bring it up over dinner as part of the conversation. Parents may be reluctant to admit to dangerous web-use practices, especially if they’ve been scammed.
Regular discussions of computer “smarts” make seniors aware of dangers, remind them of best online practices and help you identify new “lessons” to keep parents and grandparents cyber safe. Teach them about common scams that target seniors so they can watch out for them.1
6. Upgrade security software for your parents
New viruses and other malware make the rounds regularly, and software security companies add “patches” regularly to address the latest hacker malware. Update parents’ computer security for them. It’s one less thing they have to worry about and one more way you can keep Mom and Dad cyber safe.
Unfortunately, many seniors are victimized by hackers who know these computer users are generally less knowledgeable and more trusting than those of us who grew up in the Digital Age.
Go pro-active. Teach parents best on-line practices, how to detect spam scams, and how to avoid becoming victims of identity theft. Computers and senior citizens work well together when these “Golden Agers” know the ins and outs of the web.
Your parents taught you well as you grew up. Now, it’s your turn to be the teacher.
For more information about online safety, click here to visit Nevada State Bank’s Fraud Protection Services page.
1. For more information about common scams targeting seniors, visit the “Fraud” category in the Two Cents blog. Here are two articles you might find helpful:
The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of Zions Bancorporation, N.A. Member FDIC