The internet is a great way to stay connected with family and friends, shop, read current news and events, and access pertinent information. However, as with any new tool or technology, it’s essential to be safe and informed.
Though the internet offers a variety of benefits, it can also raise security concerns. It’s estimated that every year nearly $3 billion is taken from seniors who fall victim to online scams. For family members or loved ones, this can be a concern, as you may not always be aware of how the senior in your life is using the internet.
One online area that has grown for the senior population is their use of social media. While there are pros and cons of social media, the advantages can outweigh the disadvantages as long as a user is making safe decisions online. While online scams can prove to be elusive, there are steps users can take to avoid a possible scam or fraud attempt.
HarborChase Senior Living encourages our residents and their families to connect with us on social media! For that reason, we would like to share four tips to promote social media safety for you or a loved one.
1. Trust Should Be Earned
Perhaps one of the most straightforward social media safety tips is that trust should be earned, not given. Unless you or your loved one has a real-life connection with a person, be cautious. This includes not accepting friend requests from people you do not know and not responding to emails from an unknown email address.
2. Always Check Links Before Clicking
A popular method of online scamming is an email probing for sensitive information. For example, receiving an email warning that your account has been compromised and asking you to confirm personal data like your login, password, or security questions. In these situations, you or a loved one should investigate before submitting any information. Remember, reputable institutions like banks or businesses will never ask for personal information like social security numbers, credit card information, etc. via email.
Often on social media, we may receive a message saying something like, “Have you seen this photo of you?” or “Receive your free gift card!” The message will then link to a page that looks identical to the social media site and prompts the user to log in, giving a scammer access to the account and the login credentials. You or your loved one should always ensure that a URL is correct for a social media site, and customize your settings so that only your connections can message you.
3. Customize Your Privacy Settings
Most social media platforms allow for a user to customize their privacy features as an added layer of protection. We encourage all users to utilize these features to protect themselves and their loved ones from fraudulent activity online. Depending on the platform, a user can:
- Limit who can view your profile, friends list, photos, etc.
- Limit who can send you messages
- Limit who can request you as a friend, i.e. only receive requests from friends of your connections
- Block other users
Without customizing the privacy settings on an account, you or a loved one are risking showing information or photos to potential scammers.
4. Be Careful with Passwords
For social media accounts, we typically use our email address as the login, which makes a secure password crucial.
If your parent or loved one is on social media, make sure they are aware of the importance of their password. A password should be medium to long (short passwords are easier to hack) and encourage them to change it often. If they have accounts on multiple social media platforms, make sure they are using a different password for each account.
Education and Awareness
There are a variety of scams and fraudulent activities online, so educating yourself or a loved one is an important step to preventing a criminal from taking advantage of personal information.
If your parent or loved one believes they have fallen victim to an online scam, we recommend contacting a local law enforcement agency. According to the FBI, seniors are less likely to report fraud because they may not know who they can report it to or feel too ashamed to admit it. Having a discussion with an older parent or loved one regarding social media safety is vital to protect their finances, identity, and their retirement.
If you are seeking more information regarding senior safety, we encourage you to visit our HarborChase Senior Living blog for more helpful posts!