The internet is an amazing tool, but it can also be a dangerous place if you aren’t careful. In 2020 alone, cyber crimes targeted at seniors accounted for over 1 billion dollars in losses. It can be overwhelming trying to keep your financial and other sensitive information safe online. However, there are some basic things you can do to easily protect yourself from many common scams and online threats.
Common Online Threats Targeting Seniors
The vast majority of cyber attacks can be easily prevented with the proper tools, some basic education, and plain old common sense. Here are just a few of the common threats that scammers use to target seniors online:
- Malware – Software designed to damage a computer, steal data, or financially exploit unsuspecting users. Common malware types include ransomware, trojans, and spyware
- Data breaches – The release of personal information (such as email addresses, usernames, passwords, and even credit card numbers and social security numbers) to the general public and dark web servers. Recent high-profile data breaches have affected millions of Facebook and LinkedIn users.
- Scams – Hackers are constantly coming up with new ways to deceive users into giving away their personal information and money, including scam emails, text messages, websites, social media accounts, and online dating profiles.
- Identity theft – Using another person’s personal information (e.g. name, social security number, credit card, etc.) without permission.
3 Basic Computer Security Tips For Seniors
You don’t need to be a computer expert to avoid falling into the trap of scams and other online threats. There are many simple ways to keep your information safe and avoid common scams. We have come up with three simple security tips that seniors should consider when going online.
Utilize Strong Passwords and Secure Access to All Your Accounts
According to Google, a strong password should typically be at least 12 characters long. Creating a strong password should be done with a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols, and try not to include personal information. Another best practice is to diversify your passwords. Utilizing the same password for all your accounts can open you up to even more extreme security breaches should your password fall into the wrong hands. Also, many accounts offer two-factor authentication which adds another layer of protection. If you have this option and the account has sensitive information attached to it, you should always enable two-factor authentication.
Think Before You Act
One of the primary ways that scammers target seniors is by creating a sense of urgency via emails or phone calls. According to Monmouth Computer Associates, “Social engineering is a type of password attack that involves human interaction and tricking people into breaking standard security practices.” If you receive an email about a problem with your bank account, taxes, or anything else with sensitive information, don’t click any links or engage with them on the phone, especially if they called you first. If an email is claiming to be from your bank, consider calling your bank directly. If an email seems even slightly suspicious, it’s better to ignore it. Scammers frequently use links in emails in order to steal important login information.
Find a Good Security Software (and Use Your Firewall)
Not all security software is created equally, but there are some reliable options out there that will provide baseline security measures for your computer. Keep the software updated and run anti-virus tests regularly. Be wary of security updates from pop-up ads or emails. They may actually be malware that could infect your computer.
Your computer’s operating system will also have a built-in firewall that will provide additional protection. If you’re unsure how to best set up your firewall for the best security, consider reaching out to a local IT service provider that can help you.