May is National Older Americans Month, a tradition since 1963 that shows our nation’s commitment to recognizing the contributions and achievements of older Americans. This year’s theme, “Never too Old to Play,” encourages older Americans to stay engaged, active, and involved in their own lives and in their communities.
As technology becomes more present in our daily lives, older Americans are increasingly using the Internet to stay engaged. Email, social networking, and personal websites allow us to stay informed and connected with family and friends. The Internet also provides an easy way to shop, plan travel, and manage finances without leaving the comforts of home. However, just like any other public environment, the Internet requires awareness and caution. Many of the crimes that occur in real life are now done - or at least facilitated - through the Internet. Many online scammers target older Americans via emails and websites for charitable donations, dating services, auctions, health care, and prescription medications.
In commemoration of National Older Americans Month, the Stop.Think.Connect. Campaign offers the following tips for enjoying the benefits of the Internet while staying safe from cyber fraud and predators. Below are some common sense rules from the real world that apply in the online world:
1) Don’t judge a book by its cover. Cyber criminals hide behind the anonymity of the Internet. Don't communicate or reveal any personal information to strangers online. Personal information includes your name, address, age, phone number, birthday, email address, social security number, and insurance policy numbers – even your doctor’s name.
2) Look before you leap. Don't enter contests, join clubs, open attachments, or share your personal information for any reason, unless you know you are on a reputable website. Most organizations – banks, charities, universities, companies, etc. - don’t ask for your personal information over the Internet. Beware of requests to update or confirm your personal information.
3) All that glitters is not gold. Be wary of emails offering “free” gifts, prizes, or vacations. These are tricks designed to get you to give up personal information. Personal information can be pieced together to steal identities, money, or credit.
4) A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Once we understand the dangers we face online, we need to tell other people who might not be as cyber savvy. Every Internet user, no matter how young or old, is our nation’s first line of defense against people who might want to do harm. If we all become more aware of who we talk to, what we say, and what we share online, we can all make a big difference.
For a list of common fraud schemes aimed at older Americans, visit the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).