Five Things You Must Teach Your Parents to Be Safe Online
Report Finds Record-High Internet Use Among Older Generation
September 26, 2019. It’s official — social media and smartphones are no longer the exclusive domain of millennials and generation Y. A new study has found that no less than 67% of 65-74s in the UK and the USA use the internet, with 34% having social media accounts.
“Although a lot of seniors are embracing smart and social technology, they need to be reminded about its dangers. Online scammers can take advantage of older people’s trusting nature — therefore, we all need to teach our elderly relatives about cybersecurity to protect them” says Daniel Markuson, the digital privacy expert at NordVPN.
Seniors use the internet for the same reasons as everyone else — talking with friends and family, shopping, watching videos, and reading the news. However, the elderly are often targeted by scammers, who see them as wealthy and vulnerable.
Scams try to exploit weakness, so the digital privacy expert identified the five most common mistakes made by inexperienced internet users. He also listed some useful tips to protect yourself:
1. Using weak passwords. When signing up to a new account, your first priority is to set a strong, complex, and — above all — unique password. Tell your parents and grandparents to use a password manager, like NordPass, instead of writing their passwords down in notebooks or text files. For best security, remind them to use different passwords for each account changing them every once in a while to avert possible data breaches.
2. Sharing personal information. Avoid putting your email, phone number, home address, or vacation plans on blogs, forums, and social networks like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Explain to your relatives that they should never reveal their social security number online, as identity thieves can wreak havoc with that kind of information.
Daniel Markuson from NordVPN also advises to keep a cool head online — your parents shouldn’t share feelings or participate in heated discussions. Cybercriminals are looking for emotionally vulnerable people who they can exploit using psychological techniques.
3. Falling for online shopping scams. According to the US Department of Justice, seniors lose over $3 billion each year to financial scams. New or trusting internet users are rich pickings for fraudsters. Think 90% discounts, $10 Ray Bans, or even cheap diamond jewelry. Seniors in particular often fall for magical (yet unproven) treatments that promise to cure their health issues.
Teach your elderly relatives this simple rule: if it sounds too good to be true, it most definitely is. Some websites will send fake items instead of what was advertised, some will simply take your money and run. And in either case, scammers now have their hands on the victim’s credit card details.
So how do you identify a fake e-shop? Daniel Markuson advises to look for the tell-tale signs: poor website design, broken English, suspicious domain names (e.g. famous brand names with extra words like ‘deal’ or ‘sale’ thrown in, such as “michaelkorsdiscounts.net”), shady contact information, unclear returns policies, poor customer reviews, and so on.
4. Clicking on phishing links. Fraudulent emails hide malware and viruses to infect your computer. Even if your parents already know about email scams, it doesn’t hurt to remind them again. Don’t open phishing emails, download suspicious attachments, or click on scammy links: hackers use them to inject tracking programs and potentially even hijack your device. According to NordVPN’s digital privacy expert, you should always verify the email’s sender and contents before clicking anything inside.
5. Believing fake news. The internet is full of seemingly reputable websites that aim to influence readers through fake news. Misleading news about politics or finances may cause panic and cloud judgment. This is especially true for children and the elderly, who tend to be more trusting and thus more easily influenced.
Inform your older relatives about the damage that fake news can do and teach them how to spot the warning signs. Checking the source (what’s the website’s mission and contact info?), author (are they credible?), and date (reposting old news doesn’t make them relevant to currents events) of the news can go a long way towards spotting someone with an agenda. If in doubt, refer to an expert or a fact-checking website.