More senior citizens are starting to use the internet to stay connected with their family and friends. They also go online for banking, shopping, and other types of activities.
That means a lot of people have elderly parents who are using websites frequently, and that could be putting those senior individuals at risk for fraud. That can be frustrating and even scary. But the good news is that there are things you can do to protect elderly parents online. Here are some important points to consider.
Types of Online Fraud That Can Target the Elderly
There are many types of online fraud, and seniors that aren’t internet savvy may not understand how to avoid them.
These are the most common types of fraud targeting the senior population:
- Asking for passwords for security reasons
- Sending emails with links to click
- Sending elderly people to bogus websites
When you’re thinking about how to protect elderly parents or loved ones online, look into what they’re being exposed to. Then, you can see how they might be targeted.
Warning Signs That an Elderly Parent May be Being Targeted by a Scammer
Sit with an elderly parent when they’re looking through their email or performing other activities online. That way, it is easier to spot some warning signs.
Look for emails that ask for money, promise hope or prosperity, or seek donations for causes that may not be real. Also, look for phishing emails or that spoof a site your elderly parent may use. Not all seniors can distinguish a real email from their bank, for example, from a fake one sent by a scammer trying to get their financial information.
Also, look for social media interactions because elderly people who use social media are often targeted. For example, they may get friend requests from people they don’t know, and then have the scammer reach out to them through private messages.
Unfortunately, many seniors interact with strangers online due to loneliness, making them vulnerable. Seniors are also more prone to dementia and general cognitive decline, which can also cause them to make unsafe choices when interacting with online “friends.”
Steps That Families Can Take to Help Protect Their Elderly Parents Online
The best way to protect elderly parents online is to make sure you’re working with them, if at all possible. That helps them feel more in control, and not like you’re taking anything away from them.
In some cases, you may not be able to work with them because they may not be receptive to making changes. If your elderly parents are struggling with cognitive decline, reasoning with them and expecting them to remember safety rules may not be realistic. In that case, you may have to simply block certain sites.
To help your parents stay safe online, consider:
- Creating a strong password for every site
- Providing education about staying safe on social media
- Limiting who can send friend requests (friends of friends, etc.)
- Unlinking bank accounts and shopping services, or setting purchase limits
- Educating seniors about phishing emails
- Sitting with your parents to assess their abilities while they use the computer
Understanding what your aging parents may be struggling with and what’s easier for them can help you choose what steps you need to take to protect them.
Understandably, you don’t want to take too much of their freedom away. But you also need to make sure they aren’t going to lose their life savings to a scammer with a great sob story. By reducing who can access them and keeping them from making large purchases, you can protect elderly parents online.
The Importance of Communication and Staying Informed About Technology
Communicating with your elderly parents about the dangers of being online is one of the most important things you can do. The more you stay informed as technology changes, the more you can work with your parents to make sure they have the right information.
Consider bookmarking some sites and blocking others if you find that your elderly parents are getting a lot of misinformation that could put them at risk. You can’t control everything they do, but you can always help.
Resources for Further Information and Help
To protect elderly parents online, the following resources may help you:
ConnectSafely offers easy-to-read guidebooks that help explain apps, platforms, and services. With PDF options, these can be downloaded and saved to easily read offline and refer to as needed.
CyberInsureOne provides a comprehensive guide to senior safety, to help reduce risks. Going over this information with your elderly parents, and putting protections in place, can reduce risk.
We can Help
Our experienced team at Family Elder Law will make sure you have the right plan in place to protect your elderly loved ones. Reach out to us today, and let us help you find the right options and create the legal paperwork for your security and peace of mind.