Digital Safety for Seniors: Tips for Navigating Online Risks

What is digital safety?

“The internet is a great place to learn, shop, play, and talk with friends. However, there are also predators, identity thieves, and others who may try to take advantage of you. To stay safe online, it’s important to be aware of the dangers.” Joan Goldner, Associate Manager of Business Development at Seniors At Home, explains.

Digital safety, also known as internet or cyber safety, is a broad term that refers to personal safety and the security of private information online. Threats to digital safety are on the rise, in the form of phishing, malware, data breaches, and other troubling issues.

Senior using computer

Why do seniors need to be wary?

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a division of the FBI that works with people who believe they have been victimized or defrauded online, reports that in 2020, cyber crimes against adults aged 60 and over resulted in approximately $1 billion in losses—a 30% increase over the previous year. IC3 received nearly 800,000 complaints of cyber crime in 2020; over 200,000 of the victims were over the age of 60.

The good news: The vast majority of cyber attacks can be easily prevented with some basic education and common sense. To help you stay safe and aware, we’re sharing tips from Eric Gee, of AnewVista Community Services, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering seniors. Gee recommends these steps to help you navigate two of the most common risks online: email safety and misinformation.

Email safety

If an email seems “off” to you, trust your instincts and follow these safety practices:

    • Always check the “from” address on a suspicious email, not just the name of the sender. Is the message coming from an individual or company you trust? If not, don’t open it.
    • If you notice spelling or grammatical errors, be suspicious. Delete the email without clicking on any links.
    • Never share your personal information over email. This includes your address, date of birth, social security number, or passwords. Similarly, never verify your personal information by clicking on a link in an email.
    • Never share your bank account information in response to an email. If someone emails you to say they plan to wire you money, but they need your bank account information, it’s a scam.

Falling for misinformation

It’s election season, which means that the internet is raging with stories, not all of them reliably reported or accurate. In addition to fact-checking what you read online (snopes.com and politifact.com are two reliable fact-checking websites), keep in mind these tips:

  • Don’t stop at the headline—read the content of the article. Headlines are written to get attention and can be misleading.
  • Check who published the article. Is it a reputable source?
  • Verify the publication date and time. Is the article current?
  • Search to see if multiple news outlets are sharing a story.
  • Look for questionable language, wording, and photos.
  • Be aware of confirmation bias. It’s human nature to gravitate toward information that confirms what we already believe to be true.
  • Think before you share an article with others.

How else can you protect yourself online?

Education is the key to safety. Stay abreast of news about online scams so you can be alert to risks as they arise. To help, Seniors At Home is partnering with the Peninsula JCC and AnewVista to present free online workshops for technology education. We hope you’ll join us to learn more about how to protect yourself online. You can find upcoming events on our events calendar.