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  • Writer's pictureBurton Kelso, Tech Expert

How To Help Senior Adults Stay Safe Online

If you are a senior adult or know one who wants to become more digitally connected, there is hope for you and I believe you can do it. The challenge is most technology is geared toward younger users which creates a digital divide between young and old tech users. We have many senior customers who are tech-savvy, but many of them struggle with technical terms and with keeping safe online. If you are a senior or someone helping an older adult become more tech-savvy, online safety has to be a priority. Here are just some of the risks seniors may encounter and some useful ways to stay safe.

One of the most important things to remember is that no one is genetically blessed to know technology. There are a lot of adults who assume that toddlers, tweens, and teens catch on to technology because they were raised with it. The truth of the matter is the younger generation just clicks on devices until they get results, whereas older adults tend to worry about breaking their devices or thinking they can't learn how technology works. When focusing on seniors, the main thing you want to focus on is helping them use technology to achieve their goals. Don't waste time showing older adults how to maintain their devices as well as how to use every little thing the computer, smartphone or tablet does. Once you identify what their goal is, use a lot of patience and show them that goal. Once they master that, move on to the next goal. Get into the habit of writing stuff down and for the love of God, find them a tech buddy for them to contact and encourage them to reach out when they get stuck. As far as keeping you or your senior loved one safe online, follow these tips:

Keep them educated about how cybercrime works. Most seniors think that everything that goes wrong with a computer or device must be a virus. It's helpful when you explain to your grandparents, in-laws, or other older adults in your life that in order for their device to be compromised, they have to click on on a link in an email, allow strangers to log into their computer, or give out information in an email, voice call, or a text message for a criminal to get access to information. It's important for them to know there are criminals that 'spoof' or make duplicates of their social media accounts. Once you share this information, you should be able to bring their anxiety level down and make using their devices and the internet an enjoyable experience.

Use strong passwords with a password keeper. Strong passwords are essential for all smart devices, social media sites, and any financial sites. Strong passwords keep the bad guys out, but for many senior adults, it can be difficult to keep all of the passwords organized. Password managers that are browser-based can be a lifesaver for older adults. Once you take the time to enter the user name password combinations into their favorite browser, it will be a snap for them to visit their favorite secured websites without fumbling through that book of handwritten passwords.

Help them navigate scams. Many of the scams on the web target seniors. Scams range from suspicious links from banks, government agencies, hospitals, brokerages, charities, or bill collectors. Instruct that senior in your life not to fall for these socially engineered scams that are designed to make them panic and give up their information to criminals. The best instruction you can give is to have them ignore these calls, emails, and texts and have them directly contact the company via voice that claims they have an outstanding balance on their account.

Beware of dating scams. If your senior has been divorced or widowed, they may turn to social media or online dating apps to connect with people. Warn them that people aren’t always who they appear to be online. Red flags include people who profess their emotions too quickly, share personal struggles too soon, and never want to meet face-to-face.

Keep your personal data .... personal. Most agencies you've dealt with in the real world will never contact you online to ask for your personal information. Things like your social security number, phone number, account, or family information are never to be shared. Also,d beware of those online games and social media quizzes that criminals can use to get your personal details.

The speed of technology poses challenges to all age groups and even with people who are in the tech industry so you can imagine how confused senior adults can get when it comes to tech. If you know a senior who struggles with tech, check-in from time to time and offer help. If you don't have the time, be sure to direct them to a tech-friendly expert. When referring a tech buddy, make sure they have the patience of Job and that they are able to speak in everyday terms, not just 'Geek Speak.

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