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Keeping seniors safe online

Posted by Earl Laing | Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Equipping your assisted living community with Wi-Fi and technology gives your facility and your seniors a window into the digital world. Going online gives seniors the freedom to do everything from shopping to video chatting with their friends and family. 

Your network is the host of the platform on which seniors are using to surf the Web. But secure or not, if seniors don't know how to be safe online they risk having sensitive information stolen and put your network in danger of being infiltrated by scammers who could easily target your whole building via one user's mistake. The Stanford Center on Longevity and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority's Investor Education Foundation conducted research that found 34 percent of respondents 65 years and older were more likely to lose money in a scam than those a couple years younger. Although they probably aren't meaning to, seniors are giving away sensitive information online that not only puts them in danger, but your entire community as well.

It's your duty to educate your residents on the dangers of scammers who target senior citizens online: 

Know the signs

The first step in helping your seniors avoid being scammed is knowing the types of attacks they're vulnerable to. Internet scams are easier for fraudsters to take advantage of senior citizens simply because older people aren't as familiar with the technology. The National Council on Aging explained that pop-up windows that appear to look like virus-scanning software often trick innocent elderly victims into downloading fake programs that contain codes scammers use to break into the network and other private information with.

Financial email and phishing scams are among the most popular methods of hacking seniors. These work so well because they appear to be from a legitimate company like the bank asking to update personal information. Seems simple enough but even just clicking on the email can let the hackers into your network.

Computer safety company McAfee recently shared ways to detect scam mail on their blog. They warned seniors to beware of emails that are sent from numbers instead of an actual email account. Generic emails that don't address anyone specifically or contain a signature, or are full of misspellings are classic signs of a phishing attack. Seniors should also be wary about anything that offers them "free" prizes or deals.

Tips to prevent attacks

This technology isn't going anywhere so you have to teach your seniors to be smart, and part of being smart is being suspicious. It's okay to take extra time to find out if the email is legitimate or not. If their bank is telling them they need to update their information they should question it. They should only respond once they contact their branch by either calling the main number or even visiting in person and confirming the request with someone who is authorized. When it comes to the safety of your residents and your building, it's always better to be safe than sorry. 

Facilities management should be vigilant in keeping the community's software updated and protected with a secure password. However, prevention starts with education, so it's imperative that you and your staff get your residents up to speed on the dangers that lurk on the Internet.