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Thursday September 21, 2023

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

How to Protect Yourself from Cybercrimes

I frequently use the internet to pay bills, shop and keeping up with my grandchildren on social media. But a few months ago, my computer was infected with malware and a cyber hacker opened a credit card using my identity. Do you have any tips to help me stay safe while online?

Cybercrimes, especially against seniors, continues to be a major problem in the U.S. According to the FBI 2022 Elder Fraud Report, cybercrime cost Americans over age 60 more than $3 billion last year, an 84% increase from 2021.

While anyone can be a victim of cybercrimes, seniors are frequent targets because they tend to have more money than their younger counterparts. But there are several things you can do to protect yourself from online fraud, hacking and scams. Here are a few tips to protect yourself.

Strengthen your passwords: A strong password should contain at least 12 characters and include numbers and a special character, such as an exclamation point or asterisk. Be sure to have unique passwords across different sites and applications to ensure a hacker would not gain access to all of your accounts through one password. Use an encrypted and trusted password manager to store all your passwords. If you keep a written list of all your passwords, make sure you store it in a safe secure place. Avoid storing passwords on devices using the 'remember me' feature as it only increases your chances of being hacked. When using smartphones or tablets, be sure to set up a password to access and protect your device in the event it is lost or stolen.

Opt out of pop-ups: To protect yourself from computer viruses and other forms of malware, avoid any pop-up style message when you are on a website. Additionally, internet browsers provide options to customize settings, including the ability to disable pop-ups for added security. Hackers often disguise their malware as pop-up advertisements or "special offers" when you are shopping or reading online. By clicking on these pop-ups, it can lead to viruses or data breaches. If you encounter a suspicious pop-up message, do not click on anything in the window. Simply leave the site or close out of your web browser.

When in doubt, throw it out: Sometimes online hackers will engage in a tactic known as phishing. The hacker will send an email or text message and pretend to be someone to convince a victim to share valuable information with them such as Social Security Number, address or credit card information. If you receive a suspicious message from an unknown sender, do not respond or click on any links or attachments. Instead, delete the message or if you are on a work email, follow your employer's phishing protocol and report the message as phishing.

Share with care: It is possible to overshare information online. This applies to private information you may post on various online profile accounts. Using popular social media platforms makes it easier for hackers to collect information about you based on what you share, including details like your home address and personal contact information. Ensure that your privacy settings are up to date so that only people who follow you can see your posts. Be mindful not to post information that may be related to security challenge questions or financial accounts.

Verify websites: Before you shop or access your bank online, double check the validity of the website you are using. Reputable websites use technologies such as SSL (Secure Socket Layer) that encrypt data during transmission. You will see a padlock icon in your browser and usually "https" at the front of your address bar to confirm it is a secure connection. If you do not see it in the web address that you are on, you should not trust that website with your passwords, payment or banking information.

Have some back-up: While practicing safe habits can protect you and your information, you do not have to solely rely on your own efforts to stay safe. Anti-virus software can be used to prevent and detect viruses or other types of malwares from your computer. It works in the background and helps make it easier to avoid threats while on the internet.

For more information on how to safeguard your personal technology devices and personal information, visit consumer.ftc.gov and search "Protect Your Personal Information and Data." To report fraud or identity theft, go to either ReportFraud.ftc.gov or IdentityTheft.gov.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published September 15, 2023
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