Helping aging parents stay safe online

How to keep your aging parents safe online

Technology seems to change at the speed of light, and many older people find it hard to keep up. Seniors are also aggressively targeted by scammers looking to profit from their victims’ lack of knowledge. Here are three ways you can help protect your elderly parents when they’re online.

Password protection

Almost every website or app we use requires a password. Remembering all those passwords can be challenging, so many people use ones that are easy to remember, such as their children’s names, and reuse them across multiple platforms. But that leaves users open to hacking. A strong password should have eight or more characters and include a mix of numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters, and special characters like a dollar sign or an exclamation mark. Also, remind your parents that forgetting a password is not the end of the world because they can always reset them.

Fishy phishing

Seniors are often the victim of “phishing” emails that come from someone pretending to be a legitimate source, such as their bank, to get them to share their passwords or financial information.

Frequently used ploys include offers of winning a prize, threats of legal action for unpaid bills or pretending to be a grandchild who needs emergency money. Educate your parents on these tactics and teach them how to identify fraudulent messages. Common signs include an email address that doesn’t match the organization they claim to be from, the message has lots of typos or the corporate logo is a blurry image.

Sound sources

The internet is a great place to find news. Unfortunately, a lot of it is fake. To ensure the news your parents read online is legitimate they should focus on the websites of news organizations that they already know and trust, including local and national newspapers or their favourite TV or radio stations.

If they’re reading something sent to them via an email or social media, encourage them to check that the source is legitimate. Fake news sites are often filled with typos and use all capital letters or multiple exclamation marks; trusted news sites won’t.

If a story seems dubious, see if other news organizations are reporting on it. There are also fact-checking sites that take a deep dive into trending stories and rate them as accurate or false.

Find more tips on how to stay safe online and access free digital literacy resources and courses at