Dr. Mamta Mittal is the Founder & Chairperson of Seniors First, India’s premium online marketplace for senior-care tools, services, and products. Dr. Mamta conceptualized Seniors First, which has transformed the lives of seniors through its initiatives. She completed a Healthcare management degree and traveled across many countries to closely understand the advanced system of senior care there. Upon her return, she realized the gap in the elderly care sector in India, and created an innovative and extraordinary blend of positive engagement, entertainment and e-commerce platform providing 360-degree care to the seniors.
We are presently living in the digital era and our mere existence depends on the internet and smartphones. Be it kids or the elderly, population of all age groups in the present times are hooked onto the screens for one purpose or the other. In the case of the latter, ensuring their protection in the online space is extremely important.
Since the seniors are not tech-savvy and are unaware about the technological developments or the negativity associated with the online space, they are at huge risks of being targeted by scammers and phishers. They are the easy and prime prey for online criminals and cyber bullies.
The need for online safety amongst the elderly
Our elders did not use computers or grow up with technology. They have always led a simple and mundane life without any drama of cheating or fraud. However, considering that our online presence has increased and we are extremely active in the social space, scammers target them to deceive them and lure out money or sensitive information from them. The scams range from online shipping, phishing, lottery winning, to healthcare, credit cards requirement, or bank texts, and fake ads at the top of the search engines along with dating swindling.
The phisher usually builds a connection with the elders and ends up convincing them to share their confidential information on the foundation of trust and affection. This could include phone or computer passwords, app passcodes, debit card numbers, ATM pin, or even bank account details. The frauds disguise themselves as bank representatives, social media communities, religious organizations’ executives, online payment platforms, or any other entity so that the elderly could believe in them, trust them easily and eventually share the sensitive data with them. These thieves also possess the capability to develop fake websites and fool senior citizens in an instant.
Tips to ensure online safety of the elderly population
In such a critical scenario, maintaining the online safety of the elderly population becomes all the more important. Enlisted are a few ways through which we can ensure that our seniors are secured from the negativeness and scams of the virtual space-
The first step is to educate the senior citizens and create awareness about the existence of scammers in abundance in the outside world and the various ways through which they commit frauds. We also have to explain to them that they shouldn’t trust strangers in the online space and they should refrain from indulging in any kind of communication with any unknown person who attempts to connect with them virtually.
Using the internet, social media, and other platforms wisely
We have to ensure that they know about the various risks associated with internet usage and ill deeds committed by scammers. We also have to explain to them in length about the right usage of the internet, social media, and other platforms and services wisely.
Preserving sensitive data
Furthermore, we have to elucidate to the elderly that we won’t be available around them 24/7. Hence, they have to be cautious and careful about their online activity and that sharing any kind of sensitive, personal, or confidential information, be it usernames, passwords, bank details, etc. with online strangers or even with websites, platforms or apps is a strict no. in case of any doubts over the credibility of the person or the organization contacting them, it’s always good to cross-check about them amongst the people around them, dial their customer service centre for further details or thoroughly analyze their social media presence.
Generating strong passwords
We also have to make them understand to create strong passcodes for all their IDs, apps, devices, etc. that are hard to crack. Special occasions, nicknames, birthdates, anniversaries, etc. should be avoided as they are easy to guess and hence could lead to the leak of information as phishers would be able to easily break into the personal space and access their personal data.
Learn to say no
We have to instill the habit of saying no amongst our elders. They are innocent and naïve and feel that the world is filled with helpful and friendly people. However, not every individual in the online space is trustworthy especially the ones who are trying to procure information or extract money fraudulently. Hence, senior citizens should not entertain such communication and should report it to the cyber cell or discuss it with their family members so that they can take timely and appropriate measures.
Investing in the right resources
Additionally, the elderly and their family members should sign up for services like DoNot Call Registry (DNR) services so as to prevent unnecessary marketing calls that are highly likely could be scammers. Investing in state-of-the-art security systems and antivirus and malware software solutions can also provide an extra layer of security for our beloved elders.
The dire need is to educate the elderly generation and make them aware of the possible scenarios and scams that they could end up being a part of, if the requisite preventive measures are not taken to secure their online presence and internet usage. We also have to assure them that they aren’t alone and that we stand by them no matter what the situation is! Being the young and middle-aged generation in the household, it is our equal responsibility to safeguard the senior members of the family from any online threats!