According to the Pew Research Center, in 2015, 58 percent of adults ages 65 and older were using the Internet. There are many benefits to be found online, but there are dangers as well. This article will explore both and offer advice to help you surf the web safely.
Benefits of Internet use
- Stay connected / reconnect: From e-mail to social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, going online offers easy options to keep in touch with friends and family or even connect with former school pals or co-workers.
- Enjoy a smoother customer service experience: Whether you have a question about your gas bill or need to schedule a service appointment for your vehicle, sometimes hopping online can allow you to avoid a frustrating phone call during which you wait on hold for an extended period of time or have to navigate a frustrating voice-prompt phone system.
- Tap into a wealth of information right at your fingertips: You can easily research many topics online – from working on your family tree to researching major purchases in advance to learning more about relevant health topics, you can discover a lot by accessing the Internet via your computer, tablet or smart phone. You can even take courses online, whether you want to pursue a degree or certification to change jobs or return to the work force, or you might simply enjoy taking a class because you welcome the challenge and the chance to acquire new knowledge.
- Find free or cheap entertainment options: Some people save money by giving up cable service and using a service such as Netflix or Hulu to stream television shows and movies to their computers, tablets, smartphones or televisions via the Internet. You might also enjoy watching funny cat videos on YouTube, looking up song lyrics, reading books and magazines online, discovering bloggers you enjoy following and/or playing online games.
- Shop from the comfort of home: You can find just about anything you normally buy at the store online and save time and gas money by shopping online.
- Access coupons and other discounts: Many companies offer sales and coupons via their websites, social media pages or e-mail.
Dangers of Internet use
Of course, while there are many benefits to be found online, there are also dangers, so it is important to become savvy about cyber security if you use or are going start or continue Internet use.
Cyber security is general Internet safety, which focuses on protecting computers, networks, programs and data from unintended or unauthorized access, changes or destruction.
“It has been said, just as you use locks to keep criminals out of your home and other personal items, you also need to safeguard and secure your computers and mobile devices such as your cell phone, iPad, etc,” Chief Technical Officer of CaregiverUSA R.E. Dean said.
“Many crimes that occur in real life are now conducted or at least facilitated through the Internet. According to the FBI’s Scams & Safety, many criminals target seniors via e-mails and web sites with scams about charitable donations, auctions, health care and prescription medications. Because they think seniors did not grow up with today’s technology, scammers don’t think seniors will be as savvy about Internet safety and risks. In addition, they feel that seniors are less likely to report scams, because they are simply embarrassed. The best way to protect yourself from scammers is to educate yourself and be proactive.”
How to protect yourself online
The United States Department of Homeland Security offers the following tips for staying safe online:
- Choose passwords that mean something to you and you only; use strong passwords with eight characters or more that use a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols.
- If you use social networking sites such as Facebook, be sure to limit the amount of personal information you post online and use privacy settings to avoid sharing information widely.
- Keep in mind that most businesses or organizations don’t ask for your personal information via e-mail. Beware of any requests to update or confirm your personal information.
- Avoid opening attachments, clicking on links, or responding to e-mail messages from unknown senders or companies that ask for your personal information.
- Install and regularly update the security programs on your computer, such as anti-virus, and anti-spyware. These programs can help to protect the information on your computer and can easily be purchased from software companies on the web or at your local office supply store.
- Beware of “free” gifts or prizes. If something is too good to be true, then it probably is.
- It is important to add only people you know on social media sites and programs such as Skype; adding strangers could expose you and your personal information to scammers.
- If you seek medical advice online, be sure to find out who is providing the information. Many pharmaceutical companies create websites with information to sell products. Look for sites ending in .edu (for education) or .gov (for government).
- Avoid accessing your personal or bank accounts from a public computer or kiosk, such as the public library.
- Don’t reveal personally identifiable information such as your bank account number, social security number or date of birth to unknown sources.
- When paying a bill online or making an online donation, be sure that you type the website URL into your browser instead of clicking on a link or cutting and pasting it from the email.
- When shopping online, make sure the web site address starts with “https.” The “s” stands for secure.
- Look for the padlock icon at the bottom of your browser, which indicates that the site uses encryption.
- Type new website URLs directly into the address bar instead of clicking on links or cutting and pasting from the email.
- Keep your mobile devices in your possession at all times, and always be aware of your surroundings. Click here for more tips regarding mobile devices.
- Click here for tips on cyber security while traveling.
Visit the Department of Homeland Security cyber programs site for more information including tips and free resources.
Additional helpful web sites through which you can educate yourself about common scams perpetrated online, learn to protect yourself and even report fraud include:
The federal government’s one-stop resource to help you report and recover from identity theft. This site also has information on warning signs of identity theft and what to do if your information is lost or stolen.
- The Better Business Bureau’s site, is a good place to research stores you plan to shop with online.
- The FBI’s Scams and Safety site, provides tips on how you can protect yourself and your family from fraud.
How CaregiverUSA keeps you safe on our site
Caregiver USA has taken many steps to make sure your experience on our web site will be a safe one. We make sure that all vendors who partner with us discuss their cyber security policy, PCI Data Security Standards (DSS), and are in compliance with Caregiver USA Security policies.
“There are three levels of cyber security, and we have taken great care to ensure that we have taken every step possible to provide maximum security in all three levels,” Mr. Dean said. “At the basic level, we ensure our content management system updates, plugins, and themes use the latest versions. We encourage our site users to use strong usernames and passwords. We back up our web site and system regularly. We use SSL encryption (https://) and we provide information available for system contacts.
“Advanced level Security includes installing a firewall to block potentially dangerous traffic. In addition, when working with third-party software and vendors, we review their standards, policy and compliance documentations.
“High-Level Security includes HIPAA compliance and separate PHI and non-PHI databases,” Mr. Dean said. “We have a disaster recovery strategy in place and a redundancy of hardware strategy. We have a two-factor authentication via an additional login, security via text, code and e-mail link. We make sure the system file/folder permissions are set up properly and ensure site access permissions and/or IP as needed.”
How CaregiverUSA keeps you safe in “real life”
At CaregiverUSA, we are not only concerned with your safety while using our web site but also in real life. We recognize that you are using our site to seek care for yourself or your loved one that will be delivered in person. We have taken many steps to make sure that the professionals you connect with through our site are people you can trust and feel safe letting into your home – people we would trust with our own families and welcome into our own homes.
CaregiverUSA caregivers are trustworthy professionals dedicated to providing high quality, dependable care. Every staff member at CaregiverUSA has been fully screened and has extensive experience. Prior to hiring any care provider, we:
- Perform an employment reference check with three references.
- Conduct verification of licenses, certifications and registration for positions including but not limited to registered nurse (RN), licensed practical nurse (LPN), certified nursing assistant (CAN) and home health aide (HHA).
- Validate work history.
- Run comprehensive federal, national, state and county-level background checks on all caregivers.