Getting online gives us access to more of the world than ever before, all at the click of a button. With endless information, social networks and more all at our fingertips, it’s a wonderful way to stay connected and manage our independence. While moving more of our lives online can make our life easier in many ways, it also comes with an element of risk that we must all be aware of.
As popularity for internet usage grows, the rise of online scams increases evermore. Understanding how to identify, be aware of and protect yourself against internet scams can go a long way to ensuring your safety online. According to ONS data, in 2020, 96% of households across the UK had internet access. Further to that, 80% of houses with at least one person over the age of 65 were connected to the online world. While the over 65 group might still be the least likely to be heading online, the appetite for keeping up with technology continues to grow.
Spending time online should be an enjoyable experience. However, as trends continue to shift, there are still a number of older adults who admit they are not confident when spending time on the internet. Some of this is attributed to a lack of confidence in the use of new technologies. Another key factor affecting people’s confidence is related to concerns about cyber crime. To help users overcome their concerns around the threat of cyber crime, we’ve put together a guide of handy tips to enjoying the internet while staying safe online.
What are online scams?
Online scams or cyber crimes come in various forms and operate in different ways. Some will result in identity fraud, others in swindling money away from victims and some online scams can be a way to draw out information that can expose you to additional risk. Every year, millions of people are caught out by online scams and fall victim to cyber crime. As awareness around cyber scams continues to grow among internet users, the criminals that operate the schemes become increasingly more sophisticated.
What types of scams exist online?
One of the most well-known of all cyber threats is computer viruses. You might have heard other terms that fall under the computer virus category, such as malware, spyware, ransomware and trojan horses. The way these threats operate is by moving from one computer to another, infecting each one. Criminals use the virus to access your device and take control of it. It can do anything from scan the system for your personal information, slow down your computer or send out spam emails from your computer without your authorization.
How do you end up with one of these viruses? There are a number of ways. A common method is by opening an attachment that was sent with an email. This can allow the virus to be installed on your computer without you realising it. Another way scammers can load a virus onto your device is through a call from a fake business claiming to be a software or internet service provider for example. They will tell you there is a problem with your computer and they need access to it. This is not true, and genuine IT businesses will never reach out to their customers this way.
Scammers will use phishing to obtain sensitive information including passwords, login information and more. This will often occur through an email or text message containing a link. Scammers will make it look like the email or text message is from a genuine company that you know or trust. They will ask you to click on a link that takes you to a website that looks like the company you think you are dealing with, however, this is a replica website that will ask you to input details such as your bank account information, a login to that company’s website or similar. Often, the contents of the email or text message will make reference to fake unsuccessful login attempts, problems with your account, payment required, free coupons or eligibility for refunds.
Fake websites operate similarly to phishing scams by trying to obtain sensitive information to compromise your identity and/or accounts. They are designed to look just like businesses we commonly deal with, such as phone companies, banks, government agencies such as the HMRC and more. They may often appear when you are attempting to apply for visas, booking holidays or renewing official documents such as your passport or driver’s license.
As more people turn to the online world to find a partner, scammers are increasingly becoming aware of the ways in which they can take advantage of people. They will often start by connecting with you on a social media platform or dating website, first striking up a conversation, getting to know more about you. Once they have gained your trust, they will spin a story about hardship or emotional circumstance in their life and request you to send them money. These scams can be harder to identify because they are using trust as the primary way to achieve their criminal objectives.
Top tips for staying safe online for older adults
So, now that we have covered the main types of online scams and cyber crime that is taking place, how do you keep yourself safe while spending time online? While the younger generations have spent a lot of their time online, older people have been slower to adopt technology. However, as the popularity of online access among the over 65’s continues to grow, it’s important to be able to identify threats and how to avoid them.
1. Strong Passwords
One of the easiest ways to stay safe online is to ensure you always maintain strong passwords. These should usually contain a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. You should avoid names or dates related to your or your family, anything that is related to your username, or simple passwords such as ‘Password123’ or ‘123456789’. These can all be easily compromised and guessed by both hackers and ‘bots’ which are computer robots that can be programmed to complete certain tasks, such as guessing your password for example.
2. Email security
You may receive emails from people or companies you don’t know, some might look legitimate, whereas others will blatantly look suspicious. We’ve already covered phishing scams, and those are one of the main issues with email-related scams. To stay safe and ensure your emails remain secure, follow these tips.
- Ensure your password is different from other accounts online, in case your password is ever compromised on another website.
- Delete any suspicious emails and do not click links from people or companies you do not know.
- Suspicious emails will often contain different contact details, spelling errors or a slightly different looking logo than what is listed for the genuine business it may be trying to disguise as – look out for these issues.
3. Keep your devices locked
Whether with passwords or passcodes, you should protect access to your devices. Phones, tablets and computers all have the ability to limit access with either 4 or 6 digit passcodes or an alphanumeric password. This can keep your information safe if your device is lost or stolen.
4. Be aware of stranger danger
Don’t trust people you don’t know. In the same way, we are taught to be wary of strangers in the real world, the same way of thinking applies online. If you receive correspondence from someone you don’t know or if you develop a friendship or relationship with someone online, be very careful about what information you share with them and be vigilant that someone might not be who they say they are. If you are unsure, talk to someone you trust, a family member or friend who can review the situation for your objectively.
5. Be aware of fake websites
If you do receive an email that asks you to enter information about yourself, login details or bank account information, be diligent. Either call your provider on their number directly – do not call the number in the email – or type their website into your browser directly rather than clicking any links provided. Look for mistakes and spelling errors, information that doesn’t seem quite right or anything else that strikes you as unusual. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
6. Careful what you share
We all enjoy sharing information about ourselves and our lives to keep family and friends updated, but we need to be careful where and how we share those details. If we allow the wrong people the ease of accessing sensitive information about us, it can compromise our security elsewhere online. How can you stay safe and still share on social media? Follow these tips:
- Make use of the privacy settings available, so anyone that you haven’t accepted can’t see your information.
- Don’t share personal details that can leave you vulnerable, including; passwords, addresses, phone numbers and more.
- Be mindful of what you share about others to protect their privacy too. Only share information in a way you would be happy with if it was your own.
- Once it’s online, it’s there forever. Just because we can delete a post doesn’t mean it completely disappears, be careful what and where you share your information.
Staying safe online keeps you and your loved ones protected from the threat of cyber crime. Following these tips will keep your time spent online enjoyable and safe. If you’d like to learn more about Mobility Plus’s services, take a look at our range of walk-in baths for elderly, walk-in showers and wet rooms available to suit every shape, size and budget.