Internet safety tips for seniors

Canadian seniors, aged 65 and older, represent the fastest growing group of internet users. Internet awareness and security are becoming increasingly important topics to discuss, with 70 percent of these users going online every day.

The statistics tell us that $10-million is lost every year by Canadian seniors in online scams. This is in proportion with the general population. But seniors see themselves as targets, and this makes them marginalized in online activities, according to research from the University of Toronto.

Still, online activities can reduce feelings of social isolation and enable a greater sense of maintaining independence, like connecting with friends and family over social networks, playing online games, or accessing personal services, such as banking and health care.

Here are some tips for staying safe online:

Invest in security software

Investing in a reputable internet security program for your computer can mean the difference between having an enjoyable experience online or a negative one. This software, in combination with your machine’s firewall and keeping your software up-to-date, protects your device from viruses and other malicious software that may try to steal your information or take control of your computer. If you are unsure about which program to use, or how to use it, ask a trusted family member or service provider.

Protecting your online identity

Being mindful and protecting your personal information online is as important as not allowing a stranger to look through your wallet. It’s best to always lock your devices with a strong passcode, this keeps prying eyes out and your information safe if your device was ever lost or stolen. Also, before entering any personal information into a webpage, sharing on a social networking site, or emailing, consider if you would be willing to give out this information publicly. If not, it might not be best to share it online.

Email and phishing scams

Email is a popular platform for seniors to communicate online. However, it is one of the easiest ways for criminals to target large amounts of people with scams, to which seniors can be especially vulnerable. One of the most common forms of this is a method called phishing. Like catching a fish on a hook, these emails often want you to enter sensitive information with urgency or in response to a crisis, sometimes by clicking a bad link. If an email looks suspicious, when in doubt, delete.

Unique account, unique password

It’s recommended that passwords contain at least 12 characters, including a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Since that can be difficult for anyone to remember, choose a favourite phrase. Make sure to use a different password for each account to reduce the risk of gaining access to your other accounts if one has been compromised. If you need to write them down, keep this information in a secure location, away from your devices.

Using social networks

Social networking sites, like Facebook, are great for keeping in touch with friends and family: However, they still come with their fair share of security concerns. As always, use a strong, unique password and change it often. Review your privacy settings, to make sure you are comfortable with who you are sharing updates with. If you are unsure, ask a trusted family member to help you.

Entertainment, games and contests

The internet has become a primary source of entertainment for many Canadians, including a place to watch movies and TV, play online games, and enter contests. Beware of downloading bad files or entering sensitive information into unsafe websites, which can result in having this information enter into the wrong hands. Only enter your information into websites that you know are secure, keep track of your online activity, like contests you have entered, and avoid clicking pop-up messages that seem distrustful.

Checking for secure websites

How do you check that a website is secure? Take a glance at the address bar at the top of your screen. Secure websites have an address that starts http”s” for secure. Look for the “s” in the address and the padlock to make sure it’s safe to enter your information.

At Seasons, many of our retirement living locations offer access to new technology. This article offers some strong suggestions for staying safe online, however, there can be many factors. Always use discretion, or seek assistance when needed. If you think you have been a victim, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or visit www.antifraudcentre.ca.