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Safe Surfing: Protecting Older Loved Ones on the Internet

Laptop ManAnita received an e-mail from her daughter with no message, just an attachment. “Well, it’s from Rachel,” thought Anita. “It must be safe.” Expecting photos of her grandkids, she clicked on the little paper clip symbol…and inadvertently downloaded a computer virus.

Dan got what he thought was an e-mail from his bank, asking him to verify his personal information. It took Dan and his son many hours over the next month to straighten out the mess caused by falling for the “phishing” scam.


The World Wide Web and e-mail have opened a wonderful world for many seniors! Communicating with friends and family, researching genealogy, booking vacations, chatting with people from around the world…the virtual world of the Internet is becoming home to more and more older adults every year.

You’ve probably read about some of the Internet and e-mail fraud schemes out there, though. Maybe you sometimes even feel hesitant about going online? Or you worry that an older loved one might inadvertently fall victim to scam artists? You’re not alone: recent studies show that seniors are the group most likely to be concerned about Internet dangers. But that can be a good thing! Because with a little education on the subject, you can surf the web safely and avoid e-mail pitfalls.

Here are a few simple “do’s and don’ts” to help you stay safe online. Familiarize yourself with these few rules, and share them with your loved one, as well.

DON'T...respond to any e-mail asking you for personal information, such as social security number, bank account numbers or PIN number. Banks, credit card companies and other legitimate businesses will not ask you for personal information in an e-mail.

DO...be sure to log out from any site where you've entered personal information, a password, user name, etc. if you use a computer in a public place, such as your local library or senior center.

DON'T...click on an e-mail attachment unless you know who it's from, and until you've carefully checked the personal e-mail message that goes with it. Some viruses "send themselves" from someone else's computer without them knowing. When in doubt, double check with the sender before clicking the attachment.

DO...install antivirus and antispyware software on your computer, and keep it up to date.

DON'T...respond to junk e-mail (spam). Not even to "unsubscribe" from their e-mailing list—that just lets the spammer know they've found a valid e-mail address. The safest path is to "ignore and delete"!

Just as in any other area of life, knowledge is power when it comes to computer security. Knowing you or your loved one has taken a few precautions while online—just as in real life—will help you enjoy the Internet with confidence.

Want To Know More?

OnGuardOnline 
is a new website developed by a consortium of government agencies (including the Federal Trade Commission, Homeland Security and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service). The site includes easy-to-understand information about safe auctions, phishing, spyware and other scams.

The Federal Trade Commission's Identity Theft webpage
is a good place to begin in protecting yourself from identity theft and other online scams. It offers information about what to do if you think you've been victimized. The FTC also offers the article "How Not to Get Hooked by a Phishing Scam," and a lively, interactive "phishing" tutorial.

Microsoft's At Home Security web section 
offers information about keeping your personal computer safe from viruses, spyware and other threats to online security. The site includes helpful informational videos to teach you the basics. 


Right at Home is a national organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for those we serve. We fulfill that mission through a dedicated network of locally owned, franchised providers of in-home care and assistance services.


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Safe Surfing: Protecting Older Loved Ones on the Internet
Being There by Being Aware
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