Protect Yourself from Online Scams: Tips for Older Adults

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Home Instead shares simple suggestions for older adults to safeguard themselves online

The internet has become an essential tool in the lives of older adults—making it easier to remain informed, complete tasks and stay connected with loved ones during the pandemic. But, with more spent time online—from paying bills to video calls—comes a higher chance of encountering a scam.

Two-thirds of seniors (67%) have been the target or victim of at least one common online scam or hack, according to a survey by Home Instead, Inc. These scams often appear out-of-the-blue, in various forms, asking unsuspecting recipients to share sensitive or financial information in order to resolve a payment or aid a loved one. This year in particular, social security-related scams are back on the rise—defending their title as the top-reported scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2019.

“From fake stimulus payments to malicious email campaigns, many fraudsters are taking advantage of the fear and uncertainty during COVID-19,” said Lakelyn Hogan, gerontologist and caregiver advocate at Home Instead Senior Care. “The truth is, any of us could fall victim to an online scam. It’s just another reason why older adults should be more mindful of their actions online and take proactive steps to better protect themselves.”

A few preventive measures for cybersecurity can go a long way toward protecting one’s identity and sensitive financial information from being exposed. Hogan recommends the following tips to safeguard yourself and keep the bad guys away:

  • Share with care. It’s easy to get caught up in social media and lose sight of the personal details we are making public. While sites like Facebook and Instagram can be a convenient way to stay connected with family and friends, especially during COVID-19, it’s crucial to proceed with caution and avoid sharing non-critical information (like your location). Consider adjusting your privacy settings to limit who has access to your profile content.
  • Think before you act. Communication that creates a sense of urgency—such as an email asking for money—is likely a scam. Scammers can get access to personal information by prompting you to click links in the emails they send. If something appears out of the ordinary, it’s best to just delete it or reach out directly to the company or person to determine if the email is legitimate.
  • Beef up your security. Half of seniors do not use a password on at least one of their devices, leaving it open to whomever may pick it up. Locking all devices—computers, tablets and iPhones—with a strong, secure password can add a second line of defense. Consider mixing in letters, numbers and symbols, and leaving out easy-to-guess information, such as your name or birthdate.
  • Use security software. Installing antivirus software from a reliable source can add an extra layer of protection to online devices. Be wary of security updates from pop-up ads or emails, as these may be malware (malicious software) that could infect your device. It’s important to remember no software is infallible. Give yourself an added layer of defense by remembering to log out of apps and websites when you are done using them.
  • Contact an expert. It’s natural to feel unsettled after being the target of an online scam. However, there is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s critical these incidents are reported to the proper authorities in order to provide proper support for your situation and others who may be impacted in the future. If you do find yourself affected by a scam, reach out to a trusted source—such as family member, tech-savvy friend or professional caregiver—for guidance.

When it comes to cybersecurity, education is the best form of protection. Devote time to learning how to spot a scam and keep yourself from becoming a target.

To learn more about the ways you can protect yourself from an online scam or for more resources, visit

Founded in 1994 in Omaha, Nebraska, the Home Instead Senior Care® franchise network provides personalized care, support and education to enhance the lives of aging adults and their families. Today, the network is the world's leading provider of in-home care services for seniors, with more than 1,200 independently owned and operated franchises that provide more than 80 million hours of care annually throughout the United States and 13 other countries. Local Home Instead Senior Care offices employ approximately 90,000 CAREGivers℠ worldwide who provide basic support services that enable seniors to live safely and comfortably in their own homes for as long as possible. Home Instead Senior Care franchise owners partner with clients and their family members to help meet varied individual needs. Services span the care continuum – from providing personal care to specialized Alzheimer’s care and hospice support. Also available are family caregiver education and support resources.

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Dan Wieberg
Home Instead Senior Care
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