Social media opens up exciting opportunities to stay connected with loved ones near and far. But I want to have an open conversation with you about some of the potential safety risks that come with social media use, and the steps we can take together to protect your privacy, security and wellbeing online.
I know the idea of internet safety can feel daunting. You may feel you don‘t have enough technical know-how compared to younger generations who grew up with technology. Or you may feel apprehensive about letting anyone restrict your social media access, which is so rewarding.
I completely understand those feelings! My goal here is not to lecture you about the dangers of social media or make you feel shame about your online activities. I simply want to have a caring discussion about smart online safety strategies tailored to your life. My hope is by learning some basic tips, you‘ll feel confident staying active on social media while safeguarding yourself.
I‘m going to walk through the most common issues seniors face online, explain ways scammers and hackers may try to take advantage, and offer actionable advice you can immediately use to boost your safety. You deserve to reap all the social benefits of the internet without compromising your security.
Let‘s look at some key facts first:
- Americans over 65 are the fastest growing demographic using social media. In 2021, 45% of seniors were active on social platforms.
- However, seniors lost over $1 billion to online fraud in 2021, with individual losses averaging $15,000 – $20,000.
- The FBI reports that seniors are increasingly the #1 target for many cybercriminals.
- 1 in 3 online dating site users fall victim to romance scams, with senior women disproportionately targeted.
- During the pandemic, social media fraud targeting seniors jumped over 200%.
I know those numbers may seem alarming. But the good news is with the right education and tools, you can drastically reduce your risk of being targeted online. Let‘s look at some tips to secure your social media presence:
9 Vital Tips to Guard Yourself on Social Media:
1. Be selective about sharing personal details publicly
While social media is great for keeping up with friends and relatives, be cautious about how much sensitive information you share openly online. Posting details like full birthdates, addresses, phone numbers, or details about financial assets or security systems in place at your home can facilitate identity theft or worse.
Also think twice before participating in any games, quizzes or memes that ask for specific personal details like your hometown, first car make and model, street you grew up on, or the name of childhood pets. While these may seem like harmless fun, they unfortunately are a common ploy of scammers trying to learn answers to your password recovery security questions.
The more private data you volunteer publicly online, the more ammunition it gives bad actors who may be digging for information to steal your identity or compromise your security in other ways. Whenever possible, keep personal details limited to conversations with trusted individuals.
Most social platforms allow you to restrict access to your posts, photos and profile information to only approved friends. Settings like "public" or "private" control who can view your content. Keep pages as locked down from public access as possible for maximum safety.
Scammers often browse public-facing pages for details they can leverage to craft convincing cons. Restricting access denies them that opportunity. Never assume the personal details you share privately will stay that way – "private" posts can still be screenshotted and shared by approved viewers. So post personal information sparingly regardless of page privacy settings.
3. Connect only with family and friends you truly know
It‘s commonplace for scammers to create fake or imposter social media accounts pretending to be someone familiar to gain access to your data and connections. If you receive a friend request from someone you can‘t immediately verify personally, decline or ignore it.
Limit your online connections to family, friends and community acquaintances you already know and interact with in the real world. Be extra cautious of friend requests that include profile pictures that seem unusually attractive, professional or unnecessary for simply connecting online.
And if you do receive any suspicious messages or connection requests from accounts posing as people you know, alert your real contacts so they can be vigilant as well.
4. Use unique complex passwords and set up two-factor authentication
Having strong passwords is one of the most vital online security measures you can take. Avoid obvious passwords like "Password123" or using the same password across multiple accounts.
A strong password is at least 12 characters long, uses a combination of lowercase and uppercase letters, integrates numbers and special characters, and does not include dictionary words.
If remembering many complex unique passwords feels difficult, I‘d be happy to introduce you to password manager apps that can securely generate and automatically enter strong passwords for each account. Just let me know!
Enabling two-factor or multi-factor authentication adds another layer of security on top of a password. It requires entering a randomly generated code sent to your phone when logging in from a new device for verification.
While two-factor authentication does add an extra step each time you log in, it ensures that even someone who gets hold of your password won‘t actually be able to access your account. I‘d be glad to walk through how to switch this option on – it really is worthwhile!
Unfortunately, links included in social media posts, messages and emails are a prime mechanism hackers use to spread computer viruses and malware designed to steal your personal information.
Messages containing links promising exclusive offers, celebrity gossip, chances to claim prizes and other attention-grabbing headlines are almost always scams aimed at getting you to click. Even messages that appear to come from friends can be fake accounts spreading malicious links.
Make it a habit to never click on any links that come to you unsolicited, seem ambiguous or too good to be true. And if you do land on an unfamiliar website after clicking a link, never enter any login credentials or other personal information on those sites.
6. Only access accounts from secure trusted networks – not public WiFi
Public WiFi networks at coffee shops, hotels, airports and other businesses are notoriously easy for hackers to intercept, giving them access to any data you transmit online like passwords or credit card numbers.
Only log into sensitive accounts and share private data when connected to a password-protected home network. I‘d be happy to help make sure your home WiFi is properly secured with strong encryption – just say the word.
For extra protection when accessing accounts away from home, connect via your smartphone‘s cellular data instead of public WiFi or use a VPN (virtual private network) app to encrypt all activity on public networks. Let me know if you need help setting up a VPN!
7. Adjust privacy settings to limit data sharing
Every social media site has privacy settings controlling what personal data is visible to others. It‘s important to periodically check that these are configured to your comfort level for sharing. The most strict setting for limiting access to posts, profile info, contacts etc is usually best for security.
You can also restrict old posts from public view and disable location sharing, which alerts followers to real-time whereabouts. Take time to understand each platform‘s specific privacy controls – I‘m happy to walk through them with you and make adjustments together. Updating these settings gives you better command of your security.
8. Install anti-virus software and use caution with downloads
It‘s vital to have anti-virus software installed on your computers, tablets and smartphones and to keep it continuously updated. I‘d be glad to help pick a good anti-virus option and get it set up on all your devices.
These programs run background scans to detect and neutralize anything malicious like viruses, malware and spyware before they compromise your data. They provide constant monitoring and protection.
Also be cautious with downloads that seem to be apps for social media sites or games. Only download software from official app stores like the Google Play Store – never from random links online. And avoid granting unnecessary permissions to any apps – I can explain how permissions work.
9. Learn how to report suspicious activity
Every major social media platform like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc has straightforward ways to report concerning incidents like harassment, abusive behavior, scams, hacking and security issues.
Don‘t hesitate to utilize these reporting mechanisms if you encounter activity that seems "off" or like a potential violation of policies. Both the platform and other users benefit when problematic behavior is flagged – you may even prevent someone else from becoming a victim.
Most sites include "Report" buttons on posts, messages and profiles that open forms summarizing the issue for review. I‘m happy to show you step-by-step how to report incidents across different platforms. Taking action helps reinforce community standards of security and respect.
While the above may seem like a lot of considerations to juggle, they will quickly become second nature. And I‘m always available to provide any hands-on assistance implementing them. My goal is simply to ensure you feel empowered to manage your online presence in alignment with your comfort level.
Next, let‘s talk about some ways family and friends can help seniors stay safe online:
How Family Members Can Aid Senior Social Media Safety:
As younger relatives, we want our loved ones to access all the enrichment social media has to offer without compromising their wellbeing. Here are some thoughtful ways to have productive conversations and establish good practices:
Have an open discussion – Speak honestly about your concerns, but make it a two-way dialogue. Ask questions to understand their current practices and habits. Position yourself as wanting to learn together.
Claim old accounts – Help update information or delete abandoned social profiles they no longer access to limit data exposure. Remove personal history that could aid identity theft.
Enable security provisions – Offer to help implement two-factor authentication and strong unique passwords on devices and accounts. Explain how these tools work to build digital literacy.
Adjust privacy settings – Review and tighten privacy controls together. Modify sharing options and limit old posts visibility in accordance with their comfort level.
Share scam examples – Walk through real-world examples of common social media scams. Discuss tactics fraudsters use and red flags to recognize.
Install antivirus software – Choose a trusted antivirus program and help set it up on all smartphones, tablets and computers. Assist with updates.
Secure home WiFi – Ensure the home wireless network uses WPA2 encryption and a strong password. Explain risks of open networks.
Offer ongoing guidance – Check in periodically about online experiences and evolving needs. Continue sharing new tips as social media changes.
The key is making security education a journey you take together, not a lecture. With empathy and patience, you can guide older loved ones into confident social media use that enriches their connections while protecting their safety. Please let me know if you need any help implementing these practices – I‘m always happy to assist!
What To Do If You Suspect You‘re Targeted:
If you have any inkling you may have fallen victim to a scam, hack or identity theft through social media, quick action is important to limit damage:
Document everything abnormal you notice, like unauthorized posts or account access. Gather evidence.
Report the incident through the site‘s official reporting channels. Request account recovery or deletion if accounts are compromised.
If financial data is exposed, contact banks and credit card companies. Place holds on accounts if needed.
File a complaint with the FBI‘s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov to aid investigation.
Request credit reports to identify any fraudulent accounts opened in your name. Dispute these promptly.
Change passwords on all accounts, not just social media. Don‘t reuse the same password anywhere.
If needed, work with local law enforcement to file an official identity theft report. This aids resolving fraudulent accounts.
The more swiftly you act, the less harm can result from scams. And I‘m available any time for assistance navigating these steps. Don‘t hesitate to reach out if you ever feel targeted or unsafe online.
While social media does pose some risks to be aware of, the benefits far outweigh potential downsides with proper education and precautions. You deserve to take advantage of all the connection, entertainment and enrichment the internet makes possible.
I hope reviewing these tips gives you a helpful starting toolkit for managing your online presence safely. Please know I‘m always here to answer questions, provide hands-on help with any tools, and address any concerns that arise as you navigate social platforms.
My wish is for you to feel empowered to enjoy the best of what the internet offers, with confidence your safety and privacy are secured. Never hesitate to lean on me for support in your social media use. Please stay safe, be well, and keep thriving!