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Senior adults are no longer isolated from the digital world. From being active participants at Zoom calls, to paying bills, ordering groceries, and even banking, they are spending more time online than ever before. Be it adapting to online life out of necessity or curiosity – they have taken a plunge into the digital world, headfirst.
A growing number of seniors are getting to grips with the internet, but for some, the digital world can be a dangerous place. With the increasing time, they are spending online, cyber criminals too are closely following suit. A combination of factors makes this category a lucrative target for fraudsters. Over 50s are known to have savings, are less cyber-savvy, less security-aware, and a lot more trusting than other generations. Many are being swindled of their hard-earned savings, and cruelly phished for their invaluable personal information. Worse, some are unaware of the extent of the danger they face online.
They are particularly vulnerable to social engineering tactics such as emotional blackmail, fear, greed, loneliness, insecurity, confusion, and naivety. Recently, in southern India, an elderly couple was duped for Rs 9 lakh as fraudsters made their way into the couple’s online banking account.
Seniors' guide to cybersecurity
These vulnerable internet users need additional protection online. Here are easy, yet effective measures they can take to protect themselves on the web.
Think before the click:
Cybercriminals are brilliant con artists and skillful at creating convincing scams. The bad guys have become very proficient at impersonating legitimate institutions and creating a sense of urgency, to which seniors are likely to fall prey. Always check for the web address or URL, as a secure website will have an “HTTPS”. The “s” stands for “secure.” A healthy dose of scepticism and knowing what to look for to identify a scam, are key to surviving the online world.
Share with care:
Social media platforms and other online communities have created more inclusive online lives for seniors and younger folks alike. But bad actors can potentially use information gleaned from social media posts such as vacation and holiday updates, names of immediate family members, or private information like birthdays, home addresses, etc – to build better, more personalised scams.
Watch out for social media scams:
While seniors are increasingly active on social media, they need to ensure that account-privacy settings are ramped up. Beware of online quizzes or surveys that tend to appear harmless. They may contain links to malicious websites, download spyware, malware, and viruses, or worse, the personal data collected from these can be used to perpetrate identity theft.
Maintain strong password etiquette:
Updating passwords routinely is an online privacy gamechanger. While it’s tough to remember all your passwords, consider a password manager that stores then populates the username and password fields every time you log on to a site or app. Better yet, it makes password updating an easy task since you don't need to do any memorising.
Install software updates immediately:
Updating your software is a front-line defence against identity theft and fraud. Installing software updates (yes, those pesky pop-up notices) is essential in protecting your devices, and networks, thereby securing all banking and healthcare information connected to them.
Learn to identify phishing emails:
Phishing emails can be hard to spot, especially for senior citizens who may be slightly less alert and aware, and sometimes, more trusting. Don't open webpages through links, or any attachments you receive via text/email, especially from strangers. Look for signs like spelling errors, urgent action, requests for sensitive information and altered email ids.
Given how older adults have been forced to jump into the deep end of the digital pool, they will need to be equipped with skills for survival. Despite how complex the online world may seem, with the right digital hygiene, senior adults can secure their digital health as much as they protect their physical health. All they need to remember is that in the digital world, trust is a good thing, but vigilance is a better one.
Authored by Judith Bitterli, senior vice president of Consumer at McAfee. Views are personal
First Published: IST