You love to use Facebook, Instagram and other forms of social media to connect with your family and friends. Even if they live far away, you can watch videos of your grandchildren. It is fun to log on every day to see the latest cute videos of kittens or pandas, check the trending news of your favorite celebrities, take a silly quiz, play a game and read a new joke. You are not alone. 42% of seniors use social media.
But then you hear a horror story of someone’s life savings getting stolen through some internet scam, an identity theft or a computer virus. You would like to continue using social media and not have to experience these catastrophes. Read on to learn how seniors can protect themselves when using social media.
Be Careful What You Reveal About Yourself or Others
Assume that whatever you post anywhere online, can be seen by everyone on the planet. Once you release a photo, a video, a comment, or other information to the Internet, anyone with access to it can share it with everyone they know. Any of those people can then share it with everyone they know, and so on. That is how things “go viral.” Before you post anything, imagine how you would feel about it being put up on a billboard in your town. If you are not comfortable with that image, keep it off of the Internet.
Do Not Click That Link!
Malicious viruses, ransomware and other harmful things can hop onto your computer, if you click a link set up by a thief or scam artist. These links often look like they are from legitimate companies. Do not trust that links in an incoming message are safe. For example, you get an email that says your credit card will be frozen and locked due to security concerns, unless you verify who you are. The email either contains a link or asks you for personal information, such as your date of birth, place of birth, mother’s maiden name, Social Security number or account username and password.
Legitimate companies do not ask you for this information in emails. If you have a question about your credit card, pick up the phone and call them – but not at the telephone number contained in the email. Call the number on the back of your credit card. If the email concerns one of your accounts, such as the electric company, do not click any links in the email. Instead, exit the email and go directly to the electric company’s website to check the status of your account.
Choose Your Friends Wisely
Those of us who grew up in the days of pen pals may think “friending” people we have never met is fun and harmless. Unfortunately, that mindset must change when dealing with social media. Accept no friend invitation from a stranger on social media. When you friend someone, you give them access to everything you post and some access to what your friends post. If the stranger gathers information about you from your postings, he can use that to steal your identity and open credit card and other accounts in your name.
Trust No One
Many seniors get ripped off by con artists who pretend to be a friend or relative in a desperate crisis, often on a trip overseas. In a panic, the senior wires hundreds or thousands of dollars to help the person, only to later discover it was not their friend or relative, but a con artist. If you get an email, phone call, or message on social media asking you to send money to someone on behalf of someone you know, hang up or exit the message. Call your friend or relative directly to verify the facts.
Social media can keep seniors active, involved, and informed. Use it wisely and safely. If you have been the victim of an online scam, contact an elder law attorney in your area right away.
Connect Safely. “The Senior’s Guide to Online Safety.” (accessed September 20, 2017) https://www.connectsafely.org/seniors/
Senior Care Corner. “Seniors Connecting on Social Media – Tips to Stay Safe.” (accessed September 20, 2017) https://seniorcarecorner.com/seniors-connecting-on-social-media-tips-to-stay-safe
Senior Net. “11 Tips for Social Networking Safety.” (accessed September 20, 2017) https://seniornet.org/blog/11-tips-for-social-networking-safety/