Online Safety: 7 Tips for Seniors
Every day, millions of people use the internet to spend time with their families, learn new recipes, shop online and more. The Internet is fun to use, but here are a few tips to help protect your privacy online.
Be Careful What You Share
On Facebook, 300 million pictures are shared daily.1 That’s a lot! While it’s great to share your memories with your loved ones, always remember to check your social media account settings before posting publicly. Checking privacy settings on your accounts is easy. You can change your settings so that only information you’re comfortable with is public.
Each social media website has a privacy page where you can learn about your account settings:
Also, be mindful about what pictures and videos you share on social media websites. If you share pictures while on vacation, look at the post’s privacy settings to ensure that the right people are able to see your pictures and know that you’re out of town.
Speaking of being out of town, you may want to hide your location from your posts. Some social media platforms automatically share your location so your followers can see where you’re posting from. This can be updated in the privacy settings of your social media accounts with the links listed above.
You should check the settings for your applications that have access to your social media accounts, as well. Some applications have default settings that may allow them to access more information than you’re comfortable with.
Protect Your Accounts with Strong Passwords
The general rule is that passwords should be at least 8 characters long. They should also include letters, numbers and symbols. Try not to re-use passwords or use the same password for multiple accounts.2
Fun ideas you can use to create passwords include:
- Song lyrics
- Lines from poems
- Favorite quotes from TV shows
Passwords to avoid include:3
Make your passwords harder to crack by replacing letters with numbers and symbols.
- “Wild Kingdom Giraffes” becomes “W!ldKingd0mGir4ff3s”
- “Jim Fowler is great” becomes “JimF0wl3r!sGr8”
It’s recommended to update your passwords for your accounts every 30 to 60 days. That way, if anyone has taken your online login information, it won’t be valid for very long.4
Don’t Click on Unfamiliar Links
If you receive an email or social media message with a link that you don’t recognize included – don’t click on it! Even if it’s from someone you know, it could be a virus. If it does come from someone you know, confirm with them through a different channel, like a text or phone call, that the link is legitimate.
Phishing is a common tactic used by online thieves who send fraudulent emails that resemble reputable companies in order to trick you into downloading malicious software (malware), providing personal information, and more. In most cases, this is done through sending links that mimic familiar company websites. Or, if your family or friends get tricked by the phishing email, the hacker can send more fake emails to their contacts to gain even more traction through phishing.
Well, you clicked on the sketchy link. What do you do?
Don’t feel bad if you fall for a phishing link. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but here’s what you can do:
- Disconnect your device from the Internet as soon as possible.
- Save your files and back up your drive through a USB or on the cloud.
- Purchase an anti-virus software from a reputable company, like Best Buy, to scan your computer and delete the virus.
Can you report a suspicious email?
Yes! You can report phishing emails to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also report any fraudulent activity regarding Mutual of Omaha’s products email@example.com.
Be Aware of Online Dating Scams
The Internet can be a great resource for dating or making friends, but you have to be cautious. A few things to keep in mind when creating your profile and interacting online:
- Check out the person’s other online profiles to make sure that they’re legitimate. Social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn can provide you with some confirmation that the person you’re talking to is, in fact, who they say they are.
- Don’t send money to people on the Internet. A common scam happens when people pretend to be someone else online. They might try to trick you into sending them money (like for a plane ticket to meet up).
- Stay safe by being cautious about how much you reveal through your online dating profile. Although you’ll want to share you interests and likes, never give out personal information like your social security number or home address. Be careful when giving out your phone number, too.
- If you do meet up with someone from an online dating site, it should happen in a public place. You might also want to make sure friends and families know.
Use Caution When Banking Online
Banking online can be a convenient way to deposit and access your funds, but you have to be careful. Ensuring that you have secure online banking account is crucial, so here are a few things to keep in mind:
- It’s much safer to log in to your bank account directly from your bank’s website than clicking through an email.
- Phishing emails may send you to a malicious website that looks like your bank’s but will trick you into entering your credentials.
- Your bank will never ask for your password through email.
- Avoid using unsecured Wi-Fi connections (like at airports, coffee shops, and shopping malls) to sign into your bank accounts.
Keeping your bank account secure online
This is an example of when changing your password every 30 to 60 days is recommended. Changing your banking passwords every few months makes it harder for an online criminal to use your login information to gain access to your accounts.
Protect Against Identity Fraud
Identity fraud, especially online, can happen to anyone. There are several ways to protect yourself from identity fraud:
- Make sure your electronics have up-to-date security software
- Beware of phishing, by not clicking on unfamiliar links or opening emails from unfamiliar sources
- Use caution or avoid sharing your social security number, credit card information or banking information online. Check your credit score frequently to make sure there’s no unusual activity.
- Additionally, if you get a call from the IRS, it’s a scam. The IRS will send you a letter through the mail if they think you owe them money.
Log Out of Your Accounts
If you log into your online accounts on public computers, like at a library or an airport, make sure to log out. Leaving your accounts open on public computers, tablets or other devices puts you at risk for security or privacy issues. Never sign into bank accounts online through public Wi-Fi.
These tips for online safety can help make sure that your privacy is protected, so you can have some peace of mind when connecting with your loved ones online.
1 Zephoria (April 2018). Web page: The Top 20 Valuable Facebook Statistics. Retrieved on May 18, 2018 from https://zephoria.com/top-15-valuable-facebook-statistics/.
2 Google.com. Web page: Create a strong password. Retrieved on May 18, 2018 from https://support.google.com/accounts/answer/32040?hl=en.
3 Fortune.com (December 19, 2017). Web page: The 25 Most Common Passwords of 2017 Include “Star Wars”. Retrieved on May 18, 2018 from http://fortune.com/2017/12/19/the-25-most-used-hackable-passwords-2017-star-wars-freedom/.
4 Secureauth (January 24, 2018). Web page: Security Answers in Plain English: Why do I have to Change my Password Every 30/60/0 days? Retrieved on May 21, 2018 from https://www.secureauth.com/resources/blog/why-do-i-have-change-my-password-every-30-60-90-days.