Internet Basics for Seniors

Internet use may involve research, entertainment, personal business, or connecting with friends and family. Seniors are using the Internet with greater frequency, and many people in this age group have become increasingly comfortable with technology. As convenient and enjoyable as the Internet can be, it also carries some risks with use. Understanding potential pitfalls and knowing how to be safe on the Internet will help ensure a positive experience for older adults.

General Internet Safety

Accessing the Internet on a laptop or desktop computer can involve a security risk if the computer system is not protected with security software. A firewall should prevent unauthorized intrusions and viruses. Secure passwords will also keep a computer system safe. Setting up automatic updates on a computer will also help keep it secure. When using email, never open unknown attachments. These attachments may contain viruses that can compromise a computer system.

Navigating the Internet requires some degree of skill to avoid potentially harmful websites. Although many websites offer useful information and beneficial resources, there are also harmful websites designed to deceive and scam visitors. Some websites may be designed to duplicate legitimate websites, luring visitors into making purchases or sharing personal information. Before using services offered on a website, consumers must check to ensure that the business is legitimate and that the website is secure. A secure website will have an SSL certificate with a lock symbol or "https" in the URL. Never enter financial or personal information on a website unless it has one of these attributes. Other attributes to look for in a legitimate website include the physical address and phone number of the company, a privacy statement, and a listed return policy for purchases.

When using social media websites, users must choose secure passwords to lessen the possibility of criminals hacking into an account. Maintain strong privacy settings on all websites to prevent personal information from reaching unknown people. Profiles should not include too much personal information such as phone numbers, address, and names of family members. If criminals can access this information, they may learn details they could use to gain trust.

Financial Safety

Seniors are a common target for criminals executing Internet financial scams because they are often more trusting. Do not respond to unsolicited emails asking for personal or financial information, and never click links in these emails. Common financial scams involve warnings of owing money, personal emergency stories asking for money, and tech scams warning users that their computers are infected with viruses. Criminals may impersonate banks, sending out emails that warn recipients to correct account information, re-enter a password, or validate their identity. Any offers that sound too good to be true probably are, so these messages should be ignored and deleted.