• Tara Grey

Staying Safe Online - for Seniors

This article of mine was just published in the Senior News/Third Wave News of Union County in the March-April 2019 issue. I am happy to say that it is getting great feedback!


The internet and all the latest devices (computers, iPads and iPhones) give us such great access to information, learning, entertainment and social interaction. But nothing comes without risk.


The key to staying safe online, whether on your computer or mobile device, is to "stay alert" and "become educated" as to the risks. If you know what to look for and remain aware you are less likely to become a victim of internet fraud.


Common types of scams:


Email Phishing

Phishing is an email that looks like is is legitimate. It asks you to confirm personal information. They direct users to enter details at a fake website whose look and feel are almost identical to the legitimate one. These requests may also be sent as text messages. Some common subject lines are:

  • "Password check required"

  • "A delivery attempt was made"

  • "Online Banking Alert: Your Account will be Deactivated"

  • "USPS or UPS Delivery Failed"

Other red flags to look for are:

  • The sender's email address is from a suspicious website like Microsoft-Support.c om

  • The sender wants you to click the link or open the attachment to avoid a negative consequence or to gain something of value

  • The email has a generic greeting, like "Dear User"

Phone Scams

You may receive calls claiming to be from the IRS, FBI, Social Security or a credit card company. If the caller is asking for personal data or money, it is a scam. You may also get an alleged call from "Microsoft" or Apple" saying that your computer is infected and asking to let them access your device remotely. Don't! Legitimate companies will not call or email you requesting personal information! Another common phone scam is a call from someone claiming to be a family member in trouble who needs money wired. Social media has made it very easy to obtain personal information, so the call may seem real. Be wary!


Online Scams

There are numerous online scams. The most common are:

  1. Pop-ups claiming your computer is infected and to call a specific tech support number for help

  2. Ransomware: Pop-ups claiming your computer's files have been locked and you must pay to unlock them

  3. Advertisements interspersed throughout legitimate websites that redirect you to malicious websites and/or download malware without you knowing

  4. Social Media scams: Facebook account hacking, Privacy concerns

Malware

Malware is malicious software (viruses and spyware) installed without your knowledge, designed to disrupt, harm, or hijack a computer or data. Malware can damage the privacy and security of your device. It can capture your personal information in different ways and secretly send it to hackers and identity thieves. Most malware comes through email attachments, downloads (a lot of times with "free" software) and links within emails, popups or texts. If these things are happening, your computer could be infected:

  • Is your computer slow?

  • Does it crash frequently or show error messages?

  • Do websites load that you did not intend to visit?

  • Do you get Pop-up ads in the notification area of your computer screen?

  • Have you heard alarming sounds/talking coming from your computer?

  • Do you see new icons appear on your desktop?

There are preventative measures you can take to reduce the likelihood of malware.

  1. ALWAYS keep a computer backup! If your computer gets hacked and your files are ruined, you will be able to restore them from the backup.

  2. Use a Pop-up blocker in your internet browser. This will prevent pop-up windows from opening while you browse the internet.

  3. Do not open emails or click on links in emails or download attachments from unknown senders.

  4. Create strong passwords and don't use them repeatedly.

  5. Enable 2-factor authentication on your Internet accounts by adding a security question on top of entering your username and password.

  6. When shopping online or entering credit card and personal information, make sure the website's address begins with HTTPS in the address bar. This means the website is secure.

  7. Have security software installed, including Antivirus AND Antimalware programs.

  8. Keep your computer's operating system and programs up-to-date since updates are meant to fix security weaknesses.

It is always a good idea to have a "go to" person or company to speak to if you have a computer problem. Although the risks of using technology can seem daunting, the benefits far outweigh the risks as long as you remain aware.



Tara Grey owns CompuTara. For over 20 years, she has been offering personal computer tutoring and assisting people in keeping their devices safe. Located in Springfield, she can be reached at 862-368-4893 or tara@CompuTara.com


For more details on the many services I provide for senior citizens and Adults of ALL ages, check out my website in full and Services page in particular and Contact me for more information. I'd love to hear from you!!

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