Since its creation, the world wide web has changed everything. It’s now an inescapable part of life in the UK, with 91% of all adults using the internet regularly. However, older people have always been the group least likely to use the internet. There are many reasons for this – lots of older people just don’t feel the need to learn how to use it. After all, they’ve managed so far without the web. But with so many benefits to internet use, we want to make the online world as accessible as possible. We understand that internet safety is a concern for lots of older people. If you are unfamiliar with modern technology, you might worry about your privacy and security. This is only natural, but it shouldn’t be an obstacle. That’s why we’ve written this comprehensive internet safety guide for older people.
The Office for National Statistics has published in-depth research on internet usage in the UK by age, gender, sex, and location:
- In 2019, 91% of all adults were recent internet users. However, for adults aged 75 or over, this figure was only 47%.
- Among adults aged 65-74, internet usage increased from 52% in 2011 to 83% in 2019.
- 20% of people over 65 describe themselves as ‘not confident’ online. This is nearly three times the average of 7%.
If you are unfamiliar with the internet, the thought of getting started might seem daunting. However, there is no reason to let these concerns put you off. In this internet safety guide, we will go through ways to protect yourself online. We’ll also share some tips and tricks to help encourage you to take the leap into the online world.
Internet Safety Guide – Protect Yourself Online
There are so many things you can do with the world wide web at your fingertips. With all these possibilities, it can be hard to know what’s safe and what’s simply too good to be true. Here is a list of things to keep in mind:
‘Phishing’ is a common scam that criminals use by sending phoney emails to thousands of people in an attempt to get people’s personal information. The emails look legitimate, as if your own bank or credit card company have sent them to you.
Phishing emails can vary in content and appearance, often making them hard to identify. This is because fraudsters are always changing their ways trying to catch people out. Phishing emails can seem to be from your bank or building society, asking you to confirm a password or update your account. Phishing emails could tell you that you have won lottery or competition; they could contain links or documents attached to them; sometimes they can even be emails claiming to be from someone you know asking for money because they are in trouble or stranded.
So, how can you tell whether an email is genuine or not? Here are some internet safety tips for spotting phishing scams:
- If an email doesn’t use your actual name and instead is addressed to ‘Dear Customer’, this could be a red flag.
- The sender’s email address may look official but it might be different to your bank’s or credit card company’s real email address. Always check with your bank if you are unsure what email address they use or whether an email is genuinely from them.
- If you are suspicious of an email, don’t click any links or call any numbers in the email. If it claims to be from your bank, look up your bank’s contact details yourself instead. Remember: banks and financial institutions will never ask for personal information via email.
- Be wary of any email that requests your personal information, such as username, passwords, bank details, or date of birth.
- A common tactic of scammers is to make everything sound urgent. The email might contain threatening messages such as, “Act immediately or your account will be closed.”
- You might also receive emails containing links or documents, with a short message or text saying, ‘Check this out!’ or words to that effect. Don’t click on any links if you aren’t certain that they are legitimate.
Most email providers like Gmail and Yahoo have spam filters that block unwanted emails. However, if you do receive any suspicious emails, contact ActionFraud, the UK’s fraud and cyber-crime reporting centre (0300 123 2040).
This can happen when fraudsters contact you over the telephone, claiming to be from well-known firms with the aim to get you to upload spyware or viruses on to your computer. If they do so they will be able to access any personal information you have stored on your computer. Remember to never respond to a call like this as reputable IT companies never contact customers this way. If you get a suspicious call, hang up straight away. If you are unsure, look up the company that the caller claims to be from. You may well find records of other people being scammed in a similar way.
Lots of websites these days require you to create an account and set a password. This is a common method of proving your identity online. Therefore, it’s always important to have strong passwords that are hard for anyone to guess. Different websites will have different password requirements, but as a general rule of thumb you should aim for 8 characters or more. You shouyld also include a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Passwords like ‘12345678’, ‘Password123’, ‘[yourname]1956’ or your birthday will make your accounts incredibly easy to hack.
It is also worth using a different password for each website in order to minimise risk. This way, even if somebody guesses one of your passwords, your other accounts remain secure.
We would also advise against writing your passwords down anywhere. If you struggle with memory, there are free and simple password manager apps you can use to keep your passwords safe. However, if you do feel the need to write any passwords down, make sure you keep them safe away from your computer, ideally in an unmarked notebook. For useful tips on how to create a strong password, visit Microsoft.
The internet has revolutionised shopping. People can sit in the comfort of their home, sipping on a cup of tea, and with a few clicks they can get their week’s shopping, the latest gadgets, clothes and even flowers delivered right to their doorstep without even having to leave the house.
With the best deals often appearing on the web, online shopping can be a useful way to manage your money. While entering your card details, ensure that no one else can see your screen. It is a good idea to use a credit card for internet transactions, as the card comes with purchase protection from the credit card company. This means they are equally responsible if anything goes wrong with your purchase and can help you get your money back. Your debit card might have some similar protection, but you’ll need to check with your bank to be sure.
Here are Lifeline24’s internet safety tips for securely shopping online:
- You will never be asked to enter your PIN online. If any websites request it, you will know that they are not secure.
• Use a strong password for every account.
• Only shop with online retailers that have good reputations. If you haven’t heard of a particular online retailer, why not do a quick Google search for some reviews?
• Check where the seller is located; don’t just assume that they are UK-based. If you do buy from a seller outside of the UK/EU, it might be harder to enforce your rights or laws if something goes wrong.
• Once you have finished your online shopping, always make sure you log out. Otherwise, anyone using the computer after you can access your information.
You might think of social media as the realm of the younger generations. However, this is no longer the case. Over 65s are one of the fastest growing groups on social media. You’re never too old to stay in touch with loved ones, reconnect with old friends, and keep up to date with current affairs.
We’ve published a detailed guide to social media for older people, which you can find here. To get you started, here are some internet safety tips specifically for social media:
- Use secure passwords for each of your social media accounts. Avoid using the same password for multiple websites.
- Review your privacy settings regularly. You can decide who gets to see your posts and information.
- Be on the lookout for scams, which can happen on social media too.
Lifeline’s Top Tips
We’ve covered some key internet safety tips so far, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The internet holds so many possibilities for older people – far more than we could ever cover in one blog post! Below, we’ve compiled a few of our top tips for those who are just getting started.
You don’t need to splash out on the latest devices and gadgets. In fact, pretty much every computer, tablet, and smartphone on the market can access the internet. You will need an internet connection at home. The cost of this can vary, so it is a good idea to shop around and find the best deal for you. uSwitch is a great website to compare offers.
One of the first things to do is set up an email account. Emails are fast, effective way to send messages around the world. You can also receive newsletters, articles, and information about things you are interested in. It’s important to have an email address, as many companies will use this to send you bills, invoices, and other important information. You will also need an email address to sign up to social media sites like Facebook. There are many free email service providers to choose from, such as Gmail, Outlook, Hotmail and Yahoo.
Now you know the internet safety essentials, what about staying safe at home? A Lifeline pendant alarm can give you peace of mind and help you carry on living independently. In the event of a fall or other emergency, all you need to do is press the button on your pendant. The alarm system will connect you instantly to our Emergency Response Team, who will assess the situation and send help to you immediately.
You can also order your new Lifeline alarm online today.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated on 12 August 2020 to reflect current information.