Tips to Stay Safe Online
While more and more older people have access to the Internet today, only about 25% are comfortable and confident using it. They feel they won’t use it correctly. They also have heard horror stories about how people have been taken advantage of.
If you’re one of these people, let’s see if we can show you how to be more comfortable using the internet.
Watch Out for Scam Artists and Hackers
You may be great at judging the character of the people you meet in person. You may not be as great as judging people and companies you see online. Like others, you are probably more trusting of things you see that look official. That may lead others to take advantage of you.
Here’s a sad fact. As soon as people started using the internet, thieves and scam artists started looking for ways to rip them off.
They started writing programs to damage and destroy data on computers or to gain access to them. These programs are called computer viruses. Once a computer is infected with a virus, the owner will start to notice problems. It will run slower or strange things will happen.
Antivirus programs were developed to clean viruses from infected computers and to keep new viruses from infecting them. If there is no antivirus program on your computer, get one as soon as possible. There are free and paid ones. Avast Free Antivirus, Microsoft Windows Defender, and AVG Antivirus are the most popular free options.
Every day more and more computer viruses appear. To make sure your computer is protected, update your Antivirus program regularly. Also, make sure to run it regularly to remove any virus that your computer may have inadvertently gotten.
You will also hear the term, Malware. This is code developed by cyberattackers, designed to cause havoc to your computer or programs on it.
There are free and paid programs to remove malware. Two of the free ones are Malware Bytes and Super Antispyware. Get one of these and run it regularly too.
When you start to use the Internet, one of the first things you may want is an email account. You will have to set up a user name and password for it. Your user name can be something simple, like your first and last name.
Be very selective in choosing a password. Only let someone close to you know what your password is. You will want to keep messages you send to others and those you receive private.
You don’t want someone to get access to your account and messages. So, your password must be unique to you and difficult for anyone to guess.
In 2020, a hacker guessed 2 of President Trump’s passwords and published these online. The first was “yourefired.” The second was “maga2020.”
Cybersecurity experts recommend your password be about 12 characters long. These characters can be a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. A password should not be anything easy like your initials followed by 12345678910. It should not be anything people know about you or can guess easily.
At times, hackers break into companies hosting email accounts and get the passwords of people with email addresses on their sites. When the company discovers it, they will notify people whose emails have been compromised to change their passwords.
If you are notified this happened, change your password immediately.
At times it will look like a friend sent you an email. In it, the person asks you to click on a link. Be careful here. Your friend may not have sent the email. Clicking on the link may infect your computer with a virus or take you to a site with a virus.
The United States is becoming a paperless society. More and more business is being done online. You may be asked to handle your banking and finances online or make your credit card payments, auto insurance, Social Security and medical payments. For each of these accounts, you will need a user name and password.
Your use name can be the same for each. Ideally the password for each will be different.
Remembering passwords for each account can be a problem. Yet, you don’t want the same one or two for all of your accounts. If a computer hacker gets your password for one account, they can get into every account with the same password.
You won’t find the damage they have done until you open an account they hacked. Correcting the problems they cause can be time consuming and painful.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Zoom meetings have become popular. These are video meetings enabling you to see the person or people you meet with. Zoom meetings are much nicer than a phone conversation.
If your laptop or desktop computer has a camera, you will use it during the Zoom meeting. Be aware – hackers can turn your camera on and monitor you when you’re not on a Zoom meeting.
If your web camera has a cover, place it over the camera lens when not using Zoom. This will prevent anyone from observing you. If your web camera doesn’t have a cover, cover your lens with a small cloth or piece of paper.
Be Careful of Information You Put Online
You may be startled by the amount of information about you online. How did it get there? Very easily through accounts you have and things you or your family have done.
Most probably your address is online. Even your phone number may be there.
If you have a Facebook account, you may have listed where you live, the name of your spouse and your birthdate when you opened it.
If you have ever been arrested, that is public information. Even speeding tickets are public information.
Criminals can use all this information to steal your identity.
Any time you post anything on your Facebook account, anyone can see it. While you might want to share your upcoming vacation plans with your friends and family on Facebook, thieves can also see that post.
You don’t want to come home and find someone broke in and stole your valuables.
Be Careful of Emails You Receive
Scammers will try to trick you into giving them personal information about you. They may request your social security number, bank account numbers and passwords. Over the last 20 years, they have become more sophisticated in doing this
You may get an email saying one of your accounts has been suspended. Here is an example of an email supposedly from PayPal:
Your account has been suspended (Ref – 75274506863)
Mon, Dec 14 at 8:19 AM
Many people would be concerned by this email. It looks like it came from PayPal. While the PayPal logo is not shown above, it is in the email. That makes it look legitimate.
Some would follow the instructions and click on the blue box to log in. At that point, they probably would be asked to give personal information to reinstate their PayPal account. The scammer would then be able to rip them off.
How can you tell this is a bogus email?
Look at the information right below where it says “Your account has been suspended (Ref – 75274506863).”
The next thing is “𝖯𝖺𝗒𝖯𝖺𝖨 <firstname.lastname@example.org.>”
That’s who sent it. It’s not from PayPal. It doesn’t have a PayPal address – something like email@example.com.
Emails like this are sent out over and over again. If people weren’t falling for them, they would not be sent.
Preying on the Lonely
After a spouse dies, some people get lonely. They would like to meet someone to talk to and perhaps start a new relationship. They start checking out Online Dating sites.
There are several problems.
- Not all of these dating sites are reputable.
- Some of the people on these sites want to take advantage of lonely people who contact them.
Here is the way one scam works:
- Most of the online sites invite people to post pictures of themselves.
- Scam artists don’t – they post pictures of others. When a lonely person contacts them, they try to build trust with them as soon as possible.
- Initially they send messages. In a short time, they move up to phone conversations.
- At some point, they tell the person they may need money to pay a bill or help a family member who is sick. Then they ask for money regularly.
Emails from Social Security or the IRS
Scammers will send you emails that look like they’re from Social Security or the IRS.
The Social Security ones may say your account has been compromised. You’re asked to click on a link and you’re asked to enter your Social Security number and other info about yourself.
The IRS emails may say you owe back taxes. They demand you pay immediately.
Be Aware – Social Security and the IRS never send emails like this. Just delete them. Don’t enter any information.
The Grandparent Scam
You may get an email supposedly from a grandchild. It may say they have had an accident and are in a hospital or in jail. They need money to cover the hospital bills or get out of jail. Don’t send money. Check with their parents or other family members to verify if what they said is true.
You’ve Won or Inherited Money
You may get an email saying that you won or inherited money. To get the money, you’re asked to send money to a lawyer or an agency to cover an administrative cost. You never get that money you won or inherited.
Infected computer scam:
A message may pop up on your computer or you may get a call saying your computer is infected or vulnerable to hacking. There will be an offer to fix it once you send money. Disregard the message or hang up on the caller. Reputable companies never do this.
More and more shopping is being done online. Just be careful if you do this. Only buy from reputable companies or people you know. Many scammers will take your money and you won’t get what you thought you were purchasing.
The Internet is a Great Resource
It enables you to stay connected with family and friends. There is a tremendous amount of information online. You can purchase many of the products you need. You can even listen to music, watch movies and entertain yourself in many other ways. You will also be able to do many other things online.
Don’t be afraid to use it. Follow the tips outlined here and those others tell you about to make sure no one takes advantage of you.
If you have any comments on what you have read in this post, please email them to me. Also – if you have any ideas about subjects you would like to see discussed in future posts, please send me an email and let me know. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.