“Cyber Monday” is a great way for seniors to avoid the crush of crowded stores this holiday season. It is the first Monday after Thanksgiving Day and, as the name implies, Cyber Monday is all about cyber, or online, sales. Internet shoppers can not only find attractive deals on holiday gift items, but they can do so from the comfort of their homes.
Unfortunately, scammers will also try to take advantage of the high-volume shopping event, and seniors are at an elevated risk. According to the FBI, seniors are targeted by fraudsters because they typically have access to money, are more easily deceived than younger tech savvy people, and they are less likely to report being scammed.
While this sounds like a difficult issue to overcome, the good news is that older adults can take steps to protect themselves before Cyber Monday. Let us share a few of those steps with you right now.
- Update Security Software. Seniors should shop from their own computers, or from a trusted friend or family member’s computer, and make sure it has up-to-date security software. This can be as simple as clicking an update button on an existing program, or for your entire operating system. Do not be afraid to ask for help! Many cybersecurity tools are free, and can help protect against online threats, especially if seniors are receiving email spam and visiting new websites.
- Change Passwords. Passwords are a major line of defense against online fraud, but having weak passwords or one all-encompassing password for multiple sites can be a vulnerability. Seniors should consider preemptively changing their existing passwords ahead of Cyber Monday, make them different and difficult for hackers or hacker programs to decode. Keep a written list near your computer for convenience.
- Shop on Familiar Websites. One of the best ways to find online shopping deals and protect against would-be scammers, is to shop from familiar websites that also invest in security. This can include Amazon, Walmart, or any of your favorite neighborhood stores.
- Use Credit Cards. Shopping with credit cards offers an additional layer of protection versus debit cards or providing online access to your checking account. A credit card company is separate from a personal bank account, and often comes with identity theft protections.
- Share As Little As Possible. No matter how legitimate an email or pop-up ad appears, seniors should never volunteer their personal or financial information. Email and pop-up scams might offer instant contest winnings, or claim an urgent payment is necessary, but it is best not to respond. If necessary, call the company for more information and find the number to call from your own independent search.
Identify theft, financial exploitation, and fraud, are all issues that each of us should be aware of. This is especially true for seniors who may feel isolated from family members and may not completely understand the technology they use.
If this article raises any questions for you and your loved ones, we encourage you to talk to us about how to create a comprehensive estate plan that ensures everyone involved is best protected.