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More and more seniors are getting online these days, whether you learned computer skills on the job before retirement or after as a way to communicate with friends and family, shop online to save time and money, monitor finances or insurance, research medications and medical issues, update information with state and federal agencies, keep up with the news, or get involved in online communities for information and companionship. Birmingham retirees, for example, are lucky to live in a city with many cultural opportunities they can find our more about online— such as theater show times, schedules of athletic games, or concerts in their area.

The Internet comes with many amazing benefits, but it also requires a new kind of street smarts for the digital era. As much as the Internet is convenient and time-saving, it can also come with some risks. It’s important to be smart and savvy while accessing the World Wide Web, and fortunately it takes the same set of skills as staying safe in the real world.

Beware Scams

Scam artists have a number of clever schemes to take advantage of unsuspecting seniors online. They may pose as Medicare representatives, claim to offer services at mobile clinics, offer counterfeit prescription drugs or anti-aging products, or as employees of a fake charity. These are similar to scams that have been run in-person and via phone for decades, but the Internet can make it easier for scammers to find new targets and access their personal information.

You can protect yourself by creating a strong password that includes a mix of numbers, symbols, capital letters, and lower-case letters. These passwords are harder for hackers and scammers to crack, protecting your email and personal information.

Beware emails from anyone you don’t personally know, or emails requesting financial or other personal information, whether its medical or related to, say, property and mortgage assets. Other common scams might mention a Nigerian Prince, down-on-their-luck strangers who need to wire sums of money to their children, or anyone asking for a “good faith” payment to secure a windfall, sweepstakes prize, or lottery winnings.

Protect Your Personal Information

Be especially cautious of any emails or websites that have an attachment for you to open or that require you to download a file. While some government websites, such as https://www.irs.gov, might have online version of paper forms or documents for you to download, be extra careful if you’re on an unfamiliar site.

Don’t believe web site “pop-ups,” especially if they claim your computer is infected with a virus and requires you to call a 1-800 number or needs your personal information to resolve the issue. Don’t enter your credit card number or personal information on unfamiliar sites or popups, even if they spring up from a site that you trust.

If something seems too good to be true, trust your gut!