As the internet becomes increasingly central to the lives of many Americans, seniors, too, are developing a larger presence online. Online shopping, dating, news and politics, and social media outlets are just a few of the mediums seniors are participating in via the internet. We can even grocery shop online through a growing number of convenient retailers. However, just like the rest of the population, seniors face potential hazards, as scammers seek to exploit them with the guise of products and services tailored to them, using the anonymity that the internet provides. Despite this, seniors can continue to take advantage of the many outlets for communication, shopping, and information sharing that the internet produces, by implementing safe usage practices.
Shop through Secure Sites
Many online sites have additional layers of protection, so that your information is transmitted directly to the retailer itself. To check that you’re shopping on a secure site, look for “https,” rather than just “http” at the beginning of the website link.
Strong and Unique Passwords
Of course keeping passwords and other log-on information safe is critical to online shopping. But, the make-up of your passwords is important, too. Always use eight or more characters, including numbers, upper and lowercase letters, and symbols. Avoid using words or names. Never share your passwords with anyone, unless you have designated a trusted party to manage affairs on your behalf.
Don’t store payment information
Many online retailers make it easy for shoppers to check out by offering features that store credit card and other payment information within their profiles. However, this presents a risk, should one’s individual profile or the entire site experience a breach in security.
Log out at the end of each session
Similarly, “remember my password” settings can seem tempting, but sensitive information may be put at risk, should an unexpected party – such as a caregiver or friend—use your device. Be sure to log out completely from online shopping retailers, and store your passwords securely.
Don’t make purchases through pop up links or e-mails
Virus software pop-ups are an increasingly common scam used to target seniors. A pop-up screen on an internet site will indicate that your computer has been infected with a virus. You will be instructed to click a link to purchase anti-virus protections for your computer. This is a scam that puts your credit card information at risk.
E-mail scams also target seniors. For example, you may receive an e-mail that looks like it is coming from a legitimate company, such as your credit card or insurance company. It will ask you to click a link to verify important personal information, putting you at risk to fraudulent charges and identity theft. Should you receive an e-mail with this type of request, call the company or retailer directly to check the validity.
Too Good to be True
Be wary of claims that seem too good to be true. For example, an e-mail or pop-up reporting you have won a contest you never entered. Some online companies seek to exploit seniors by advertising products with extreme claims, tailored to seniors. These ads may appear along the borders of social media or online shopping sites, and tout claims about anti-aging, anti-cancer, and other “miracle” products. Again, clicking these ads may land you on an unsecure site, leaving your personal information at risk.
Use a credit card
When shopping online, use a credit card when possible. If fraudulent charges arise from the purchase, credit card companies often comply more easily with requests to remove the charges. Check your credit card statements often, ensuring all charges are appropriate.
Ask for a Hand
Don’t hesitate to ask for the help of a trusted friend or loved one before making a decision when shopping online. It can’t hurt to have a second set of eyes to review your purchase or verify the legitimacy of a site or e-mail.