jax_0094Did you know that 58% of senior citizens uses the internet, according to Pew Research Center? That’s a huge leap from the start of the new millennium, when just 14% of seniors were online in 2000. The number of adults 65 and older who are logging on is growing faster than any other age group. There’s a lot of reasons for that— after all, you can do more than ever online these days, and computers are simpler to use than ever before. With just a few clicks you can complete all kinds of tasks with little effort, like:

  • Watching or reading the local, national, and global news
  • Hunting for bargains and hard-to-find products on online stores
  • Finding out more about nutrition, exercise and physical therapy options, medical conditions, prescriptions, or even comparing health insurance options or researching a new doctor or hospital where you might like to receive care
  • Enjoying your favorite televisions shows, movies, music, and other media entertainment
  • Sharing your opinion with newspaper and magazine editors, Congressmen and Senators, or on message boards for people who share similar interests and hobbies, from fishing to quilting to rooting for the same sports team
  • Book theater tickets, check home game schedules, quickly look up business opening and closing times, scout out menus for new restaurants, plan outings for the grandkids, find addresses and phone numbers
  • And last, but not least, keep in touch with loved ones using social networks like Facebook and Pinterest, email friends and family, and video chat with your nearest and dearest using apps like Google Video, Face-Time, or Skype

However, it’s important to be aware that there are criminals who sometimes try to take advantage of the elderly online. They assume seniors are easy targets because they lack tech savvy, but fortunately there a few simple precautions you can take to protect yourself while you enjoy everything the Internet has to offer.

  • Set up a strong password. Use a mixture of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. A random assortment is best, though that does make it harder to remember. If you opt for a word or phrase, steer away from common, easy-to-crack passwords like “password,” “PW,” “123456,” “letmein.” You can check the strength of your password using Microsoft’s secure tool: https://www.microsoft.com/security/pc-security/password-checker.aspx
  • Don’t trust anyone who asks you for your personal information via email, even if they appear to be a bank or trusted company. Most reputable companies will not ask you to update information like your social security number or credit card information via email. Instead, you will need to log in to their secure website to manage your account online.
  • Don’t open files attached to emails if you don’t recognize the sender. Even if the email looks like it’s from a trusted institution, like the FBI, a loan office, a lottery site, or a charity, you don’t want to accidentally download a virus, spyware, or malware that could send personal information on your computer or in your email account to a cyber criminal.
  • Trust your gut. Just like you have smart instincts about protecting your social security number, bank PIN, or credit card information, or if someone out and about gives you a bad feeling, you can also get a sense for if someone’s online activity is suspicious. The anonymous nature of the Internet makes it easier for people to hide who they are and their real intentions, but just remember that if anything seems to be too good to be true, or is trying to play on your best qualities of generosity and compassion, someone might be trying to set you up for a scam.
  • When in doubt, ask a trusted family member or legitimate business that sells or repairs computers. You might try Spotts Professional Computers in Jackson, Best Buy, or an Apple Store in Memphis or Nashville, like the one at Saddle Creek in Germantown.

And just remember, there are so many amazing reasons to join the millions of seniors who are getting online. Don’t let the possibility of cybercrime prevent you from getting to join your family for little moments via Skype, enjoy free news articles online from a variety of publishers and channels, save money on shopping, or finding out about even more of the exciting things to do in your city or region. With these few simple steps, you can enjoy a bigger, broader world!