Ask the Expert: How Do I Keep My Senior Loved One Safe Online?

Dear Jana:

My husband and I recently bought my mom an iPad. Our children helped her set up an account on Facebook and showed her how to search for people she knows. We all thought it would be a great way for her to find old friends and to stay in touch with family.

She’s been lonely since my father passed away last year and we are hoping social media will help her feel more connected. We hope it will be especially good for her during the long central Ohio winters when the weather often makes it hard for her to safely get around town.

I am concerned about keeping her safe, though. I’ve read that seniors are a common target for online fraud and scams. What steps can we take to protect her while still allowing her to enjoy herself online?

Vickie

Dear Vickie:

The iPad combined with an account on such a popular social media channel is a great way to help your mom stay connected! Tablets are senior-friendly because they are easy to log on to and can be used while relaxing in their favorite spot on the couch.

Unfortunately, you are right about seniors being targeted by fraudsters both online and offline. But there are steps you can take to help your mother stay safe:

  1. Caution your mother to be careful about what information she shares by email or on social channels. Warn her never to publicize the times when she will be away from home for a few hours or on vacation.
  2. Also advise her not to accept “friend” requests from anyone she doesn’t personally know. Scam artists deliberately search for seniors online. Once they connect, they work on obtaining personal information or hacking in to their computers.
  3. If she already has an email address, don’t allow Facebook to search her online address book for friends. These types of searches return everyone she has ever emailed and not all of those people may be her friends.
  4. Remind your mother not to open email or click on links from people she doesn’t know. These are a common source of computer viruses.
  5. Our final tip is to help her create secure passwords. While it might be necessary for her to write them down, find a safe place away from her iPad or computer to store them.

I hope these tips help keep your Mom safe online, Vickie!

Jana Duff

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