The Senior Citizen’s Guide to Privacy Online

The Senior Citizen’s Guide to Privacy Online

As a senior citizen, the internet affords you the ability to connect, to stay in touch and to become independent in many ways. However, the hyper-connectivity that comes with these advantages also comes with risk. In this guide, we’ll tell you how to safely navigate the internet, from getting set up and understanding basic computer security to recognizing online scams and taking advantage of online banking and healthcare.

Privacy 28 Jan 2018


The internet continues to play an increasingly central role in connecting people of all ages to news and information, health resources, government services and opportunities for social support. As a senior citizen, the internet is a place where you can stay in touch with friends and family, reconnect with former acquaintances, keep up with the latest news and happenings, and more. The internet also can also provide you with medical and financial independence.

These are just a few of the reasons that internet usage among seniors has steadily increased in the last years. According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 42 percent of seniors own a smartphone, and 34 percent of those 65 and older are active on social media.

As many benefits as the digital world might afford, there are also significant dangers in using the internet. From phishing scams to identity theft, there are plenty of ways for those who may be less familiar with the inner workings of the online world to be taken advantage of. A 2016 Internet Crime Report shows that the largest group of victims of internet crime in 2016 were over 60. Total loss of collective victims over 60 was also much larger than younger groups before them.

The Pew Research Center also reports that there are a number of hurdles to older adults adopting new technologies. Physical challenges like failing eyesight or arthritis can make a computer difficult to use. Skeptical attitudes regarding the benefits of technology can also contribute to lack of technology adoption, with 35 percent of older non-internet users believing they are better off without it.

Difficulties learning to use the new technology can also provide a barrier for some—77 percent of seniors indicate they would need assistance learning to use a new technology device like a laptop or smartphone. Learning to navigate the internet safely is something everyone should know and this guide is designed to do just that.

Click through the sections below to learn about everything from setting up your internet safely to creating strong passwords.

1 Getting Set Up Online Securely

The first step in online security is connecting to the internet, and understanding the basics of the web/web security.

The first step to ensuring your online security is getting set up and connected to the internet correctly. If you’re unfamiliar with the internet it can seem laborious to complete all the steps necessary to guarantee safe browsing, but it’s absolutely necessary. Use the below steps to setup your machine and ensure it’s safe to use.


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2 Creating a Strong Password

Passwords are a large part of what keeps online information secure. Once you’ve set your internet up, you will need to know how to create strong passwords to keep yourself safe online. Simply using a familiar word or phrase is not enough, steps need to be taken to ensure your password cannot be cracked by a human OR a computer.

Creating a strong password is key to keeping your online information secure.











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3 Understanding Computer Security

These days, our computers house a wealth of personal and confidential information. It’s incredibly important that this information stays private and out of the hands of potential criminals.

Follow this basic protocol to keep your computer, and the information on it, safe.

As such, ensuring that basic computer security is implemented is especially important if you’re not as familiar with the digital world.

There are some basic steps to take on the road to internet security which everyone should take.






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4 Social Media Safety

Social sites like Facebook are important tools for communicating with family and friends. They make it easy to stay connected to the outside world and current with pop culture. Through a simple search, you can reconnect to old friends you may have lost touch with.

Social media sites make it easy to stay connected with the outside world, but it’s important to be careful with how much information you share.

Staying close with your loved ones on social media is one of the greatest benefits of connecting to the world wide web; however, it’s important to be cautious of what and how much information you share with the public. Here are some tips to stay safe on social sites.

  1. Log into Facebook and hover your mouse over the arrow in the upper right hand corner and a drop down menu will appear. Click on Settings.
  2. Select the Privacy tab on the left hand side and click on it to display the privacy screen.
  3. Hit Edit next to “Who can see your future posts?” and change it from Public to Friends. You can also control and fine tune other settings via this page, like who can send you friend requests or look you up, via the same method.



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5 Email Safety

One of the more common ways people steal data online is by enticing people to click malicious links through fraudulent emails. Known as “phishing attacks,” these scams are one of the most common threats to computer users. As such, it’s important for you to understand what phishing attacks are and how to recognize and avoid them.

Phishing scams usually come in the form of fraudulent emails appearing to come from a legitimate source. The message may appear to come from well-known company, bank or your internet service provider. They will usually say something indicating that your account has been compromised and you’ll be directed to click a link to resolve the issue. When you enter your information to “log in,” it is stolen by the attacker.

Phishing scams, often in the form of fraudulent emails that appear to be from a legitimate source, are one of the most common ways people steal data online.

Types of Phishing Attacks

Often these emails will aim to create a sense of panic or urgency, encouraging the reader to click the link immediately for fear of losing something. They come in several different forms, but the most common include:





How to Spot a Phishing Email

Learning how to spot a phishing email is the best way to protect yourself against them. These emails usually look like a normal email from a reputable brand. Sometimes they have logos, email addresses that look legitimate, and may even have your name and some account information. If you’re at all suspicious, things to look out for include:






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6 Recognizing Online Scams

Unfortunately, as a senior citizen, you’re often vulnerable to online scams. While seniors are using technology more than ever, they are assumed to be less proficient with technology, and are targeted by criminals target them online. There are several different kinds of prevalent online scams that target more mature age groups. They can range from minor to serious, and usually have the intent of stealing money or personal data. In this chapter, we’ll cover some of the most prevalent scams and how to identify them.

There are several online scams you should be aware of, which specifically target adults in mature age groups.





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7 Online Banking Security

The world of online banking is more prevalent than ever. It can provide flexibility and convenience, especially for people who have limited mobility. These online banking systems provide a way to pay bills without physical challenges, and offer financial independence from caretakers or family members.

Online banking provides flexibility and financial independence, but comes with risk.

Online banking allows you to view your bank accounts online, pay bills, transfer funds and even deposit checks remotely. All you need is a computer or a smartphone, and the knowledge of how to conduct the transactions. While banks are working hard to make online banking safe and enjoyable for everyone, the convenience comes with a risk. To properly protect your information, ensure that the following steps are taken and best practices implemented.

Tips for Online Banking Safety












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8 Online Healthcare Security

There are some extremely helpful and useful websites and apps that provide medical information or advice (see some here). With the click of a button, you can find more information about a certain medication or illness, or get information about insurance providers or perks.

Online healthcare resources can provide valuable information and needed support, but are often not medically vetted and should be treated with caution.







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9 10 Steps for Staying Safe Online

Follow these tips to stay safe online.

Being less familiar with the online world can leave you open to attacks by scammers and hackers. To recap the information briefly, there are several basic steps you can take to ensure your safety online.

    1. Create strong passwords: Create passwords that cannot be easily cracked by a human or a computer. The most secure passwords are a long string of random numbers, letters and symbols. Learn more about creating strong passwords in Chapter 2.
    2. Use privacy settings on social websites: Always be cognizant of what information you’re putting onto social media. Changing your privacy settings from “Public” to “Private” or “Friends Only” can help keep your information safe, but is not foolproof.
    3. Be wary of spam email or email from unknown senders: Be aware of common scam or fraudulent email tricks, and avoid sending your personal information via email. Be aware of the common types and signs of phishing scams, and be wary of clicking on links from unverified sources.
    4. Report abuse: If you suspect you’ve been the victim of online abuse, report it immediately. The sooner you report fraudulent or suspicious activity, the sooner you can work toward getting resolved.
    5. Watch for red flags when meeting strangers online: When meeting new friends or love interests on dating sites or social media, be sure to watch for signs that they may be deceiving you. If there is indication that your new acquaintance is in another country, either traveling or living permanently, be wary of scams.
    6. Don’t send money to people you don’t know over the internet: It’s very important to avoid sending money to anyone you haven’t met in person. No matter the reason, don’t send or wire money to a stranger.
    7. Don’t click on links in emails or on social media websites unless you’re sure they’re legitimate: These links can lead to fraudulent websites designed to steal your data or install malware onto your computer.
    8. Be wary of offers from banking organizations or travel companies: The general rule of thumb is that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Any outrageous or once-in-a-lifetime offers from banking or travel organizations should be met with suspicion.
    9. Shop online at stores you know to be legitimate: Stores that are not legitimate could be less secure than the bigger companies, putting your personal information at risk.
    10. Only use verified payment sources: Use only verified sources such as PayPal if at all possible, and exercise caution if you must enter your credit card information.

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10 Resources

Use these verified resources to vetted information online.

There are several online resources that you can use to gain information and understanding of the online world. These websites have been vetted, are from reputable sources and contain valuable information. Use them to verify information or simply make your life easier!

General Information

American Bar Association-Commission on Law and Aging
American Society on Aging
Senior Circle
Senior Resource
Third Age

Healthcare and Medical Websites

Be MedWise
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Citizens for Health
Citizens for Patient Safety
Compassionate Friends
Consumer and Patient Health Information Section (CAPHIS) of the MLA
Consumer Health Information Corporation
Drug Digest
Empowered Patient Coalition
Families USA
Health Care For All’s Consumer Health Quality Council
Health Grades
Hospice Patients Alliance
Institute for Safe Medication Practices
Institute of Medicine
National Coordination Counsil for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention
National Council on Patient Information and Education
National Empowerment Center
National Institute of Health
National Institute on Aging
Partnership for Patient Safety
Partnership for Patients
Center for Medical Consumers
Patient Safety Institute

Federal Government Websites

Administration on Aging
Department of Health and Human Services | Aging
Elder Care Directory
Healthy Aging for Older Adults | Seniors
Social Security Online


While the internet can be an incredibly useful and convenient place, it can also be a dangerous one. Now that you’re familiar with the basics of the internet, password safety, social media and email safety, banking and online healthcare safety, and know how to spot scams, you will be able to browse with confidence!


2016 Internet Crime Report | Pew Research Center | Using the Internet for Seniors | Creating a Strong Password | Avoid Phishing Attacks | Norton Security | Seniors Guide to Online Banking

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