The Internet is an incredible tool, allowing like-minded people over 50 to connect. We love that the Internet allows us to keep in touch with friends all over the world through Facebook and email.
But not everyone's intentions on the Internet are good. Hackers and online scammers target those of us over 50 because they expect us to be less computer savvy and more trusting. They want our money and our identities. With the following know-how, we're going to prevent those abusing the Internet from getting them!
Lock Down Your Device
* First and foremost, make sure your computer, your iPad, your phone, or any other device you're using to connect to the Internet is secure. Install security and operating system updates, as well as antivirus software, anti-spyware and firewall software to prevent anyone from sneaking in and stealing your information.
* Be careful about sending personal information over public Wi-Fi. Security can vary from system to system. In fact, if you travel a lot, consider purchasing a portable router to create your own hot spot so you can safely use your devices while you're on the road.
* Don't open files, click on links, or download programs emailed by strangers. They can introduce spyware or a virus into your system.
* Keep financial information on your laptop only when necessary, and, if you do, don't use the automatic login feature that saves your user name and password. Foil thieves by making it difficult to login if your laptop is stolen.
* Delete all personal information from your computer and mobile devices before you dispose of them. You can use a wipe utility program to clear your computer's hard drive and remove the SIM card from your mobile device.
Protect Your Personal Information
* Don't use any passwords - like your birth date or your grandchildren's names - that would be easy for someone to guess. Use a unique combination of numbers, upper- and lowercase letters, and symbols to create passwords and change them on a regular basis. Of course, remembering all those letters, numbers and symbols is never easy, but there are a variety of good password managers to make the job easier.
* Look for the "lock" icon in the status bar of your Internet browser before you send personal or financial information online. (You'll see it when you go to pay for anything on Golden Girls Network!) This icon lets you know that your information will be sent safely.
* Never respond to an email asking for you to verify your password, account number or credit card number and do not click on the links in such an email. If it's a company you actually do business with, or you're unsure whether you do business with that company, call their customer service department using a phone number from either an account statement or from a web search.
* Manage the privacy settings on your social networking sites so that only people you trust can have access to information about your day-to-day personal life. Bad guys can use this info to answer "challenge" questions about you, discover when you're out of town or, even worse, discover when your roommates are away and you're home alone. On more open social networking sites, be judicious about the personal info you share, and never post your full name, address, phone number or account numbers.
* Your social security number is like gold to an identity thief, so protect it like the treasure it is. Never provide it in an email or on a social networking site. If a company requests it, ask why they need it, how it will be used, how will they protect it and what will happen if you don't provide it.
Bonnie Moore, 70, is the President and Founder of Golden Girls Network, the only nationwide network that helps mature adults find roommates and access the resources they need to make shared living work. She is also the author of How to Start a Golden Girls Home.
*This article first appeared on the Golden Girls Network blog. See the original article by clicking here.