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Cyber Security: Online Safety Tips for Seniors

Cyber crime is a modern phenomenon, but the idea behind it is no different than a thief breaking into your house and trying to take what is yours.

Cyber crimes affect all of us, but seniors are often targeted because criminals know older adults have been working to acquire assets for retirement and may not always be as technologically savvy.

A transition to retirement is a vulnerable moment in life and cyber criminals use this as an opportunity to compromise your cyber security. Hackers will plant malicious software on your devices or try to solicit passwords and identifying information about you. Cyber criminals use this information to obtain your email address and sensitive financial and personal information, such as your Social Security number. Their goal is to access your financial assets, scam you for money or even impersonate you to con those you care about.

How do you prevent this? Cyber security is not a singular action, but a collection of preventative measures you can take to effectively stop breaches of your privacy. Following these essential tips and steps can help decrease your chances of becoming a victim of cyber crime:

  • Use antivirus software, malware and firewalls on your computer and internet-enabled devices.
  • Change your Wi-Fi and administrative passwords monthly.
  • Use strong passwords of twelve characters or more, mixing upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters. Avoid using any names or common phrases.
  • Review your financial statements frequently for transactions you did not make.
  • When sharing on social networks or media, ask yourself, is this something I’d want a stranger to know? If not, don’t share it, or make sure you have the strictest privacy settings enabled.
  • Never give personal or identifying information out to anyone, even if you think it’s someone you know.
  • Never open or click on links in suspicious social media messages or emails. An email or social media message asking for help is usually a scam.
  • Create backup files of sensitive information on external drives and/or USB drives.

If you find yourself the victim of a cyber crime, take immediate action. This can include shutting down any compromised electronic devices and taking them to a specialist, or deactivating bank accounts and credit cards and contacting the handler of the account immediately.

You have worked hard planning your retirement and creating a secure life for your family. Protecting your assets from cyber attacks the same way you’d protect your home from intruders should be an essential part of that planning process. The Department of Homeland Security offers valuable resources to keep you safe from cyber criminals at: fema.gov and ready.gov.

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