More than 3 billion people worldwide use the Internet, according to Time Inc. Although most people surf the web for business purposes or leisure, some Internet users use it as a way to conduct crime.
Older adults are often the targets of crimes such as fraud, identity theft, and scams. Each year, older adults lose approximately $30 billion to online scams, according to Cyber Insure One.
Think of the Internet like its own little world; each user is a citizen. Most are good, but some are out to cause trouble. Just like in real life there are steps you can take to ensure you’re safe, secure, and getting the most out of the web.
- Use Strong Passwords. Your online password is like the deadbolt on your front door – the stronger it is, the safer you are. The longer and more unique your password (aim for 8 characters or more), the more secure your information is. For more password safety tips, check out ConnectSafely.org.
- Don’t Assume Honesty. Unless you know someone in person, it’s a good idea to use caution when interacting with him or her online. A lot of scammers use email to conduct crime, and they often lie about their identity. If you’re unsure about who someone is, it’s best to delete and ignore the message.
- Protect Personal Information. While some websites requesting your personal information are totally trustworthy, others may not be. For instance, scammers may send you an email requesting info like sensitive usernames and passwords, or bank account info. A real bank will never request these via email. If you’re ever unsure about the trustworthiness of a request, call the customer service number listed on the companies website.
- If it Looks Suspicious, it Probably is. Any email that makes you think twice is probably one you want to ignore and delete. This is especially true for links inside of emails, which are how many scammers get your private info. Resist the urge to click these links.
- Urgency is Almost Always a Red Flag. Many scammers request immediate action, often claiming if you don’t act quickly something terrible could happen. These are almost always fictitious requests – delete and don’t reply.
- Never Send Money to Someone You Don’t Know. Sometimes family and friends need our financial help, and that’s okay! But if someone you don’t know in asks you for money over the internet, it’s probably a scam.
The Internet is a wonderful place to watch funny videos and keep in touch with our friends and family, but if we’re not careful, it can also be an easy way for bad people to take advantage of us.
However, with a few simple steps each time you log on, you’ll have a safe, secure, and fun experience.