Not surprisingly, the Internet offers many benefits to senior citizens, including the ability to better stay in touch with family members, access vital information and resources, and shop without leaving the comfort of their homes. Seniors are embracing the digital age in greater numbers every year (53% of adults ages 65+ now use online tools, with 70% of users going online daily), and there are many growing sites geared specifically toward the needs and interests of senior citizens.
But unfortunately, there are also risks associated with being online, at any age, including…
Senior citizens should be wary of emails, websites, or social media messages that:
- Offer “free” gifts, prizes or vacations, or exclaim, “You’re a winner!”
- Offer discount prescription medications or other “can’t miss” deals.
- Appear to be from friends or family members, but the message is written in a style not usually used by that person, has numerous misspellings, or otherwise seems unusual. This is an indication your friend or family member’s account may have been hacked.
- Appear to be from official government agencies, such as Social Security Administration, or banks, requesting personal information.
- Set ultimatums such as “your account will be closed,” or “the deal will expire” to create a sense of urgency, and trick the victim into providing personal information.
Cyberbullying (mostly through e-mail) of seniors can take several forms, but the most common are:
- Emotional abuse with rage, threats, accusations, and belittling comments, often followed with periods of silence or ignoring the victim.
- Financial abuse aimed at obtaining the victim’s account information, setting up online access to their accounts, and stealing their money.
Speaking out against cyberbullying can be particularly difficult for seniors who may not know what the term means. As with victims of any age, seniors may feel violated and powerless, be confused and in denial over what’s happening, feel shame and self blame for being a victim, and fear even more bullying or being ignored if they speak out. Additionally, according to the Washington State Office of the Attorney General, in many cases, seniors are the victims of cyberbullying by family members.