By Patty Aiken, Owner, Home Instead Senior Care

     The complexity of computers and devices is so complicated and confusing. With an everevolving cyber world, it can be a challenge to stay informed about the many tools and practices needed to stay safe online. Make sure the software and/or the security systems on your computer and electronic devices are up-to-date. Encouraging older adults to practice cyber safety can go a long way toward protecting their identity and sensitive personal information.

     More than a third of U.S. seniors (38%) surveyed say someone has tried to scam them online, and 28% have downloaded a computer virus, according to research conducted by Home Instead, Inc., franchiser of the Home Instead Senior Care® network.

     Seniors may be more vulnerable to online identity theft and scams for many reasons. Small actions like locking down devices and not over-sharing personal details online are among the ways to help them avoid trouble.

Password-protect and secure devices and accounts

     Half of seniors do not use the password feature on at least one of their internet-enabled devices, leaving it open to whoever may pick it up, according to the Home Instead Senior Care survey. Locking all their devices including computer, tablet and telephone with secure passwords will keep prying eyes out and protect information in case these devices are lost or stolen. Encourage any seniors you are helping to make passwords strong and keep them in a safe, secure place away from their computer.

Think before acting

     It can be easy to panic when faced with an urgent request. Remind older adults to stop and think before they act and get a second opinion when in doubt. Encourage them to ignore emails and communication that create a sense of urgency such as a problem with their bank account or taxes. This type of message is likely a scam. When in doubt, they should throw it out. Clicking on links in emails is often how scammers get access to personal information. If an email looks unusual, even if they know the person who sent it, it’s best to delete it. Remind older adults that scammers can hack into friends’ email addresses and send messages on their behalf. Spam filters should be on email accounts.

Share with care

     Social media is a big draw for older adults. In fact, most seniors interviewed in the Home Instead Senior Care survey say they participate. And that could be a good thing, helping keep them connected. Encourage older adults to share with care on social media sites such as Facebook. Help seniors to appropriately adjust their privacy settings to limit who can see their information and remind them to avoid sharing their location.

Use security software

     Most seniors in the Home Instead Senior Care survey say they have help with their computers–either a family member or a computer professional. If you’re assisting a senior, install security software from a reliable source and keep it updated. Run the anti-virus and anti-spyware software regularly. Be wary of pop-up ads or emails. They may be malware that could infect computers. You could consider showing older adults how to clear browsing history at the end of their sessions so they don’t leave a trail of sensitive data. Suggest they enable the default firewall security protection on their computers. If antivirus software includes additional firewall protection, consider they contact a computer professional to ensure they are safely protected without over-blocking sites they use regularly.

Log out

     Suggest that seniors log out of apps and websites when they are done using them. Leaving them open on their computer screen could make them vulnerable to security and privacy risks.

Consider support

     If your older loved one lives alone or spends a lot of time by themselves, consider a trusted source to serve as a second set of eyes and ears. Adult family members and grandchildren who are computer savvy may be willing to help.

     Education is the best form of protection. For more information about how to protect seniors from fraud, visit ProtectSeniorsOnline.com. And for more about cybersecurity, go to the National Cyber Security Alliance at staysafeonline.org.