Cybersecurity Tips for Senior Citizens

August 21, 2022, marked World Senior Citizen Day. The occasion might not be as hyped or celebrated as Mother’s and Father’s Day, but it’s still a chance to give thanks and honor all our elders. Anyone with close ties to a member of an older generation knows how much knowledge and insight those seniors have to offer and how important this wisdom is to the world. Seniors don’t always get the credit, but younger people worldwide owe so much to those who have paved the way for the many opportunities that we all enjoy.

By the decade’s end, the total number of people 65 and older worldwide will surpass 1 billion. And by 2035, the same demographic is projected to make up the largest portion of the US population at around 77 million. These statistics indicate a steadily rising senior populace but also an expanding pool of potential targets in the eyes of cybercriminals. With that in mind, here are some cybersecurity tips focused on senior citizens. Whether you fall into that category yourself or have family and friends who do, keep this information in mind and pass it on to anyone who could benefit from it. 

Understand that Seniors are a Target

Senior citizens are a prime target for cybercriminals and scammers because they often have more money than younger adults and can be less aware of common scams and fraud tactics. This is a broad generalization, but it helps provide some understanding of why seniors are at an increased risk for cybersecurity issues. A lack of awareness can put anyone in a dangerous situation, which makes recognition of potential issues critical in combating these problems. Similar to how you might change your behavior when visiting a location with higher crime, senior citizens must remain constantly aware that cybercriminals are looking for any and all possible means to commit fraud. 

Increased Digital Awareness

Advancements in technology don’t always register with older people who are unfamiliar or unaware of how integral the digital world is to their everyday lives. Increased digital awareness is key to knowing what threats exist and how to spot them. This can involve something as simple as knowing how to update the software on a phone or computer to help prevent spam, computer viruses, malware, etc.

Seniors also need to understand the value of their personal information, and that threat actors don’t need much information about a victim to commit fraud. Safeguarding PII such as addresses, social security numbers, and even phone numbers and email addresses is essential to do as this information opens potential fraud possibilities in the wrong hands. Knowing how to identify an insecure website can help prevent credit card fraud and other issues, as can practicing safer browsing habits. The digital realm can be overwhelming for people of all ages, but oftentimes a lack of awareness leads to security risks that could otherwise be preventable.   

Know the Common Scams

Knowing some of the most common scams targeting seniors is another important tip to help limit security risks. New scams appear regularly and are always evolving, but there are a few senior-focused cons to keep in mind. Quick recognition of these can help reduce the risk of falling victim by limiting the chance of revealing personal information.

  • Tech Support Scam – Scammers pretend to be tech support representatives and offer to help fix or navigate computer or device issues that don’t exist. An unsolicited call or email about tech support is an indicator of this scam. 
  • Charity/Sweepstakes Scam – Scammers pretend to represent a charitable organization to gain trust and access personal information, or they tell the victim that they have won a sweepstakes. Always be skeptical if you have no knowledge of the charity or sweepstakes.
  • Grandparent Scam – Scammers claim to be a grandchild or child of the victim and assert that they are in need of fast cash due to some immediate or emergency issue. Sometimes the scammers pose as authority figures such as the police, demanding payment to “release” the child or grandchild from potential imprisonment. 
  • Romance Scam – Scammers contact the victim as a potential match through a dating app or connection through social media in attempt to gain personal information and commit fraud. 

These are just a sampling of common scams targeting older individuals. For more information and insight, take a look at this FBI resource on Elder Fraud.  

Focus on Cyber-Hygiene 

Cyber-hygiene is vital for everyone, and many of us already take measures toward this end without thinking much about it. Senior citizens aren’t always aware of the basic steps that one can take to limit the risk of fraud and other cyber issues. By focusing on a few everyday measures, you can limit risks and establish a first wall of defense against potential issues down the line. 

Some essential cyber-hygiene measures include: 

  • Don’t click on links from unknown or untrusted messages. Email spam is a classic tactic for tricking victims into clicking on a suspect link. But links can also appear in text messages or social media posts. Never open a link from an unknown sender. 
  • Ignore robocalls and unsolicited phone calls in general. This tip isn’t directly in the cyber-sphere but can still lead to problems. Don’t engage or interact with robocalls or unsolicited phone calls as there are several potential scams that can appear. 
  • Never open unknown or unexpected email attachments. Opening an unknown email attachment is a quick way to install malware on your electronic devices. Even an email from a known contact can contain a potentially dangerous attachment. Always be cautious with attachments and don’t open them unless you know what they are and who they are from. 
  • Don’t respond to pop-up messages. Pop-up windows and messages aren’t as prevalent as they once were, but you still never want to respond to a random pop-up on your computer or phone. These messages will often employ some sort of scare tactic to trick the victim into responding. Ignore and close the windows and never click on links or respond to them. 

Share the Knowledge 

The tips provided above are just a start toward maintaining ongoing cybersecurity measures for seniors. If you know anyone who could benefit from this information, please pass this post along to them so we can help all senior citizens stay safer in the digital age. 

LibertyID provides expert, full service, fully managed identity theft restoration to individuals, couples, extended families* and businesses. LibertyID has a 100% success rate in resolving all forms of identity fraud on behalf of our subscribers.

*LibertyID defines an extended family as: you, your spouse/partner, your parents and parents-in-law, and your children under the age of 25.