Online Safety Tips for Seniors

One of the most common issues that we, at We Trust, see often are those people who didn’t grow up using a computer who find it difficult to determine the necessity of online security.

For some senior or computer novices the thought of navigating the huge amounts of online information is intimidating.

A few simple techniques can make online computing safer and easier.

Online safety techniques include installing antivirus software, signing up for two email addresses, protecting personal information, choosing effective passwords, and avoiding scams.


Install Antivirus Software

One of the most important steps any online user can take is to install an antivirus software program.

Avast offers an excellent free home edition that can be downloaded from their website.

You register for a security key and re-register every year to keep using the free software.

A good antivirus program can protect your computer from viruses, worms, trojan horses, malware, and spyware.

And while no system is perfect, Avast offers a good level of protection in an easy to use package.

After download and installation, the program updates files automatically to keep up with the latest computer security threats.

There are other free antivirus programs or you can purchase upgraded programs from many companies, but no one should be online without virus protection.


Sign Up for Two Email Addresses

Most computer users should have at least two email addresses.

One for casual tasks such as emailing family and friends or website registration and one for more formal business.

You should not use your casual email address for managing tasks dealing with banking, credit cards, stock trading, bill paying, insurance, Social Security issues, medical records, insurance, or credit reports.

Your casual email can quickly become clogged with spam from certain online activities and you are more likely to miss an important email that way.


Protect Personal Information

Many websites collect personal information to sell to mailing lists and telemarketing firms.

For official sites where you are conducting legitimate personal business, it is necessary to give real personal information.

For more casual online activities you don’t need to share your real personal information.

Although many website registration forms have boxes for email address, password, name, complete address, phone number, and date of birth, you don’t always have to fill in all the information.

In many cases the only boxes you are required to fill in are email, password, and zip code.

For sites that insist on full information, you can choose how much real information to give out or avoid the site completely.


Choose Effective Passwords

When you choose a password consider the importance of the information you are protecting.

For many casual websites choosing a password is not so important because you have given out very little personal information.

You can choose a relatively easy one and use the same one over and over.

Don’t use the same password as your email, but it can be similar.

If your casual email password is “abc123”, your password for casual computing sites could be “123abc”. For more official business sites you should have a more secure password that is not obvious.

Don’t use your initials, date of birth, address, phone number, or social security number. You should use a mix of numbers and letters you can remember easily.


Avoid Scams

Email scams are a great hacker and identity theft tool and it can be hard for a computer novice to recognise a scam.

A few basic rules can help you avoid some common scams.

  • Companies do not send out emails asking for your password.
  • Companies also do not send out emails threatening to close your account unless you log in.

For the most part ignore these emails because the links in them are fake.

If you click on a link in an email like this you would likely be taken to a real looking site where your login information would be recorded and hackers would have access to your account.

If you want to check on an account close your email, open a new page and access the website as you normally do.

Never click on a link in an email from someone you don’t know.

Computer use and navigating websites can be intimidating for seniors and novices who are still mastering technology.

The proper software, some basic email rules, a wariness about sharing personal information, effective passwords, and knowledge of the most common email scams can help any computer user navigate the web more safely and avoid the pitfalls of web surfing.


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