10 Easy Ways to Keep Grandma and Grandpa Safe Online

Online security is an essential component of anyone’s life but staying safe online is particularly important for the senior generation. Older generations grew up without the dependence on technology, making online navigation particularly difficult. That’s not to say that all seniors are susceptible to digital threats; it simply means inexperience can put seniors at a disadvantage. To help safeguard the older people in your life, here are ten tips to keep them safe.

Explain basic online safety

Online safety has never been something your grandparents have had to face before. While they understand life skills and concepts, they may be increasingly vulnerable to phishing attempts, hacking, and viruses. You’ll want to explain what a computer virus is, how to prevent getting them on the computer (don’t open links they don’t know), and how to verify what they’re reading is accurate. This includes websites, content videos, landing pages or contests, and social media posts. 

 Explain Phishing Attempts

With the continued development of phishing attacks, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to identify real company emails from false platforms. Talk to your parents about “fake” emails and how they work. Phishing attempts will often threaten account suspension, claim a faulty payment method, or threaten fines or fees to scare the user. Let your grandparents know that no one is going to contact them through email regarding account details. Likewise, the government isn’t going to reach them outside of formal communication methods. 

Discuss common scams

Anyone unfamiliar with online scams may believe what they’re reading. These attempts at stealing information continue to change and evolve, making it harder to distinguish fact from fable. Encourage your grandparents to reach out before filling out personal information online. If they have already completed online forms (or credit card information), run a free background check to check for suspicious activity. Scam artists prey on unsuspecting people, targeting free prescriptions, contests, free money, or assistance claiming benefits for the elderly population. 

Teach appropriate social media use

Social media can help keep isolated grandparents connected but having a brief conversation about staying safe can limit the potential problems. Free contests, false posts, promises of free products, and requests for personal information can all contribute to identity theft. Explain how many data mining posts work; they’ll ask for an individual’s street name and mother’s maiden name for a “puppy name.” Likewise, many social media contests request email addresses or phone numbers, which will provide thieves with your grandparents’ name, email, and phone number in one conversation. They should also be reminded about never sending money or gift cards to people they don’t know online.  

Encourage secure passwords

Many senior citizens struggle with passwords online, especially if they have multiple accounts. Stress the importance of secure passwords, including capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. If seniors are unable to remember passwords, find somewhere to store the information outside of technology. These can include a notebook, a document on the fridge, or another centralized location near the computer. Remind grandparents that these passwords should be different for every new username. Passwords should never contain their first name or phone number.  

Install antivirus software

While many free virus scanners are available online, having a purchased program from a reputable company can make all the difference for your grandparents. Ensure the antivirus is set up for daily or weekly scans, including malware attacks and virus protection. Tell your grandparents that any ads they see for viruses on the computer, software updates, or critical errors aren’t genuine – particularly if they like to play games online.   

Establish safe online purchases

While many seniors avoid online purchases, it’s crucial to have conversations about protecting their financial information. Talk to grandparents about safe websites that are safe to purchase from and how to avoid low-quality platforms. You’ll want them to check for SSL encryption before purchasing, which shows as HTTPS:// at the beginning of the URL. If a website doesn’t have SSL, tell them to avoid the purchase. Although many reputable sites may not have SSL, it’s not worth the risk for seniors.  

Promote website verification

Before joining any website or platform online, always encourage your grandparents to research the site. Show them how to bring up a search engine and look for company reviews. It’s also important to explain the terms of service on a registration form. Shady platforms can bring steep fees with the account registration, mainly when offering low-priced trials. Explain how to look for any cancelation fees, policies, or administrative costs before joining. 

 

Don’t Allow Remote Access to the computer

Unsuspecting seniors may believe the telephone prompts requesting access to the computer. Phone calls from scam artists imitating popular operating software (like Windows or Apple) prey on unsuspecting people. Let them know that actual computer companies will never contact them directly to update the system. Any calls from unknown numbers asking for access should be immediately ended. Likewise, tell them never to provide credit card details to anyone on an incoming call. 

 Help them safeguard sensitive information

Your grandparents should never share their credit card information with anyone online, especially on social media. Likewise, they should never send money by email, wire, or gift card to anyone (even supposed family members). Talk to family members about never sharing confidential information publicly online. These details can include address, phone number, health benefits, political affiliation, or family history. While these individual items may seem harmless, malicious intent can harvest this information effortlessly. Many of these details can be used as security questions to accounts online, compromising the account in the process.