Use strong and unique passwords and never share your passwords with anyone, unless you’ve designated someone you trust to manage your accounts. One reason for this precaution is to prevent someone from using your account to impersonate you — perhaps asking your friends and family to “help you out” by wiring “you” money in an “emergency,” which is a common scam.
Make sure your passwords are long — at least eight characters — and include numbers, upper and lowercase letters and symbols; avoid using names or dictionary words. At ConnectSafely.org/passwords, you’ll find tips and information on how to use multi-factor authentication and fingerprint recognition for more advanced security.
Use privacy settings. Most services have settings that let you control who can see what you post. Facebook, for example, has extensive controls, letting you post to only friends, your friends and their friends, or everyone on Facebook. You can also limit specific posts to a smaller group like only family members or specific people. Some services give you a choice between private and public posts, with private going just to people you designate. Before posting to any service, it’s good to get to know its privacy policies and settings. There are also privacy settings for smartphones that can restrict who has access to your location, contacts, and other personal information.
Think before your post. Whether it’s a picture, video, or comment, what you post and what you share is a reflection on you. Make sure you feel good about being associated with anything you say online and be sure not to post anything that you wouldn’t want to share with the world. Even if you’re using privacy settings to limit the audience, there is always a chance that what you post can be copied and shared by others.
Dealing with “spam” or unsolicited email can be challenging. It’s pretty common to be plagued by junk email. Simply getting these messages isn’t necessarily dangerous, but it can be annoying. In some cases they can be from companies you’ve interacted with in the past and, if they are legitimate companies, there is probably a link to a page where you can safely ask to be removed from their list. But if they are truly “spammers,” they won’t stop, even if you ask them to. The best thing to do is make sure you’re using whatever spam filter is provided by your email service. Visit ConnectSafely.org/seniors for information on how to use the spam filters on popular Web-based email services like Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Comcast, Outlook and AOL. Avoid clicking on links in unsolicited email, as there is a chance they could link to sites designed to scam people or infect computers with malicious software.
Report abuse from anyone, including friends, family and caregivers. We hear a lot about children being “cyberbullied,” but it also happens to adults, including seniors. If you are getting messages on social media or in email that are threatening, mean, extremely angry, accusatory or in any way abusive, don’t respond; reach out for help and support from someone you trust or from adult protective services or law enforcement, and report the behavior to the site or service. All major social media companies, and online and mobile service providers have employees that respond to abuse complaints. ConnectSafely has links to abuse and privacy pages for major social networking and Internet and mobile service companies.