keeping the elderly safe online

Being able to use the internet can help older people in many ways; shopping, socialising, managing finances and learning new things to name a few. It’s a great way to keep channels of communication open, purchase items if you’re unable to go shopping alone, and generally keep abreast of what’s happening in the world. However, we all know that while the internet is useful, informative and a good source of entertainment, it’s important to stay safe online.

If you’ve just started to use the internet in your later years, or you have elderly parents, relatives or friends who’ve just dipped their toe into the cyber world, here’s our quick guide to how the elderly can stay safe online.

Online shopping and banking

Using the internet to shop and carry out everyday banking is not only convenient, but it can save you money. However, you MUST take steps to protect your financial information. This means that you should always use secure websites when entering any kind of financial information, so that your details can’t be read by anyone else.

To ensure that it’s a secure site:

•    Look for a padlock symbol in the window of your browser – you can click this symbol to double check that the seller is who they claim to be.
•    Check that the web address begins with ‘https:’ (the ‘s’ denotes that the site is secure).
•    If a pop-up warning message about the site’s security certificate appears, treat it with caution. Clicking it may direct you to a fake site.
Even if the padlock symbol is displayed you should still always:
•    Create a strong password. It should ideally be a random mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and keyboard symbols. Don’t use dates of birth, maiden names, etc.
•    Use online retailers with a good reputation.
•    Never give out financial details to online companies unless you are confident that the company is above board, and that they provide full contact details.
•    Keep one credit card for internet transactions only. You’ll be covered should the sale go wrong, and the card can easily be cancelled without affecting your offline transactions.
•    Check your bank and credit card statements regularly for unauthorised transactions.
•    Always log out from a site when you’ve made a transaction.
•    Don’t follow up links or deals that are sent to you in unsolicited emails.
•    And don’t forget, buyer beware – if a deal looks too good to be true – it usually is. Don’t get caught out by scams which tell you that you’ve won a prize!

Social networking

We all know the power of social networking sites for keeping in touch with friends and relatives all around the world. Whether we use sites such as Facebook and Twitter simply to interact with our grandchildren and see all their latest photos, or we’re looking to make online friends who share the same interests as us, there’s no doubt that these kind of sites have opened up the world.

However, these kind of sites can also leave your personal life and details exposed.

•    Keep your profile private so that only your friends and family can see your details and the posts you make. You’ll find this option in ‘settings’.
•    Avoid putting personal information such as addresses and telephone numbers on your profile or in your posts, and be careful about telling people when you’re going to be away from home.
•    Pick user names that don’t include personal information wherever possible.
•    Be cautious of people you meet online who ask for personal information.

Protect your computer or mobile device

Whether you use your computer simply to browse gardening websites, or you’re using it for online banking you should always:

•    Install anti-spyware and anti-virus software. These will help to keep your computer safe from viruses and unwanted programmes which can scan your device for private data such as credit card numbers.
•    Turn on your firewall – the protective barrier between the computer and the internet.
•    Install any updates that you receive via your computer and software providers.
•    Protect your wireless router with a security code, so that others nearby can’t access it.

Should you need help with any of the above, ask computer literate relative to help out, or consult your local computer store.

Computer Training for the Elderly

If you really want to learn more about the internet and computers why not join other elderly folk on a training course. You would have a lot of fun and learn some valuable information. There is nothing to be afraid of as once you understand the jargon and the basic principles computing and the internet is a valuable tool, even more so for the elderly.  AgeUK can help you find a course in your area. Click here to search for a computer training course near you.