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Published By Beth Lueders on December 10, 2015

Every year, thousands of seniors join the ranks of those exploring the Internet to chat with grandchildren, view family reunion photos and handle personal finances. But with every online interaction comes a risk: savvy Internet thieves are eager to steal from unsuspecting senior citizens.

The holiday season, when more people are shopping and planning travel, is a prime opportunity for online swindlers to attack. Common Internet thievery includes the following:

Phishing—Con artists send fake emails inviting online users to visit a reputable-looking site for insurance companies, banks, etc. Email recipients click on a link to a replica of an authentic website and log in to a personal account, disclosing their user name and password. The cyber phishers then use this information to visit the real website and steal the person’s stored personal or financial data.

Scams—Web crooks pose as a person in need of help or offer the senior a financial profit for essentially nothing in return. Lottery scams claim the online user has won a valuable prize, redeemable with a minimal fee.

The Homeland Security team offers these four tips for thwarting Internet criminal activity

  1. Do not give your Social Security number or other personal information— including phone number, birthday and insurance policy numbers—to any stranger online.
  2. Go directly to a recognizable website first before entering personal information. Never click on an email link to any website.
  3. Avoid entering contests and joining clubs or accepting “free” gifts or prizes, especially from unknown companies, charities and banks.
  4. Do not click on links or attachments from unfamiliar people or organizations and do not respond to emails requesting an update or confirmation of personal information.

With an ounce of prevention, online experiences can be fun and safe for every older adult … and help Mom and Dad shop ahead for holiday gifts.

What other online safety tips do you recommend for seniors?

An award-winning journalist who has documented stories in nearly 20 countries, Beth Lueders is an author, writer and speaker who frequently reports on diverse topics, including aging and health issues for both U.S. and international corporations.

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