Cybersecurity and Older Americans

As of April 2012, 53% of Americans age 65 and older use the Internet or email – the first time this group has exceeded 50% in several years. Increasingly older Americans use the Internet to get involved in community groups, shop, plan travel, manage finances, and keep in touch with family and friends. But while the Internet brings many conveniences, it also comes with risks. Cybercriminals use sophisticated techniques to appear legitimate; they pose as friends or family members, banks, charities, mortgage vendors, and even healthcare and low-cost prescription providers to steal information in order to conduct identity theft, phishing schemes, credit card fraud, and more. Learning about ways to protect your identity and personal information online is just as important as understanding how to use the latest technology. 

  • Many scammers target Americans ages 65 and older via emails and websites for charitable donations, online dating services, online auctions, buyer’s clubs, health insurance, prescription medications, and health care.
  • Many of the crimes that occur in real life – happen on the Internet too. Credit card fraud and identity theft, embezzlement, and more – all can be and are being done online.

Fortunately, making safer and smarter decisions online can be as simple as following these tips:

  • Choose a password that means something to you and you only; use strong passwords with eight characters or more that use a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols.
  • Keep your mobile devices in your possession at all times and always be aware of your surroundings.
  • If you use social networking sites such as Facebook, be sure to limit the amount of personal information you post online and use privacy settings to avoid sharing information widely.
  • Most businesses or organizations don’t ask for your personal information over email. Beware of any requests to update or confirm your personal information.
  • Avoid opening attachments, clicking on links, or responding to email messages from unknown senders or companies that ask for your personal information.
  • Install and regularly update the security programs on your computer, such as antivirus, and anti-spyware. These programs can help to protect the information on your computer, and can easily be purchased from software companies on the web or at your local office supply store.
  • Beware of “free” gifts or prizes. If something is too good to be true, then it probably is.
  • It is important to add only people you know on social media sites and programs like Skype; adding strangers could expose you and your personal information to scammers.

Resources Available to You

  • AARP - Provides specifics on internet safety, how to protect your privacy, and the most up-to-date virus protections.
  • FBI - This is a list of common fraud schemes aimed at older Americans.
  • Fraud.org - Helps protect consumers from being victimized by fraud.
  • FTC’s PassItOn Campaign - Enlists people 65 and older in an effort to recognize and report fraud and other scams. Topics include imposter scams, identity theft, charity fraud, health care scams, paying too much, and “you’ve won” scams.