How to avoid online scams - top tips to stay safe online
Stannah’s guide to protecting the elderly from online scams
In today's digital age, understanding the power of the internet is essential. It’s hard to do activities like making payments or transfers, booking appointments or ordering gifts without a mobile phone or computer. As a result, phishing scams (where attackers send fraudulent messages to trick users into downloading malware or sharing personal information) have become more common, with dangerous users making it harder to spot malicious attacks.
Due to the complexity of reporting online fraud, it is considered a "low-risk" crime and as such is increasingly common, with a recent survey finding that 36 million individuals in the UK have been targets of fraud. 1.3K monthly Google searches for advice on preventing scams highlight the dangerous extent of online phishing attacks that we fall victim to. Those in later life are most likely to be targeted due to a lack of understanding in identifying scams, so later-life experts at stairlift and home lift company Stannah have created a guide to protect the older generation from digital fraudsters alongside a digital glossary to clue up older internet users on digital terms.
Create strong passwords
Online security depends on a secure password, and users should have a different one for each online account and application, ensuring that passwords are difficult for scammers to guess. Use a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numerals, and special characters (!, @, £, or #, for example) to ensure your password is as complicated as possible.
Keep personal information private
Users should be careful about giving out personal information to strangers by email, phone, or in person – authentic sites will never ask you to share your personal information online. Keep a protected note of your passwords and personal information or make use of password storage systems like Apple’s Keychain or Google Password Manager to save and manage passwords.
Set up a two-step verification
Any online account or gadget that supports two-step verification should be used. Every time you log in, a code must be entered in addition to your password. Some accounts will send you an email asking you to confirm that you logged in from a new device. These two levels of security help to combat scammers and safeguard devices, online accounts, and personal information.
How to identify phishing attacks
Phishing attacks usually come in the form of a fraudulent text, email or phone call from a user pretending to be an organisation you would usually trust, such as your mobile phone provider. Emails and texts could have the logo of a reputable bank or online retailer, asking for credit card details or personal information in order to hack accounts or steal money. By learning how to identify a phishing attack, the older generation can ensure they don’t fall victim to fraudulent acts online.
Scammers frequently claim to be from the Government when they contact you. They may use a real organisation’s name (like the NHS or HMRC) or pretend to be from a gas company, courier service, or charity organisation, for example. Double-checking the name can reveal spelling mistakes – but often the delivery of the message reveals that it’s fraudulent.
Learning how to identify a genuine website is important to be safe online - a web address with an error is a common giveaway. Scammers may slightly tweak the web address, such as replacing letters or numbers (e.g. r0yalmail.com) or swapping .com to .org. Some website pop-ups imitate antivirus software to trick users into downloading a virus or false antivirus package, so avoid clicking on them. They can expose your computer to scammers and potentially end up costing you a lot of money.
Fake text messages and calls
People often get text messages about winning money or prizes in contests, lotteries, or sweepstakes that they haven’t entered. Be on the lookout for fake text messages that offer rewards or freebies in exchange for clicking on suspicious website links. Look out for spelling and grammar mistakes in the text. These messages may also demand immediate action or pressure users into visiting sites they don’t recognise.
The best approach to preventing yourself and your loved ones from falling victim to phishing scams is to be educated. Spend time learning how to recognise a scam to prevent fraud. Users can also install reliable antivirus software on devices. A number of software packages will also include an anti-phishing feature that recognises and prevents phishing attempts from reaching you or your loved ones.
Stannah has created a digital glossary for older users of the internet, designed to educate on terms encountered across the internet – especially to bolster knowledge on finance, social media and dating.