Internet Safety in the 21st Century

Marietta received an email from her bank, informing her there had been some suspicious activity in her banking account that appeared to be fraudulent. It noted some high dollar amount transactions to stores, she knew she did not authorize. In order to prevent future activity, there was a direct link to the bank to change her user name and password. She clicked on the link, and went through the official website to make the necessary modifications. Feeling she had safeguarded her account, she went to bed with a sense of security that her bank was looking after her and her money. A week later she was stunned, when several utility companies contacted her to say her payments were overdue. She was always diligent in paying her bills on time, so she found it very odd to receive these calls. When she went to her local branch the next day, she was told that her savings account had a zero balance and her checking account was down to five dollars.

Marietta is a victim of Internet fraud, and she is not alone. With more businesses utilizing the internet, an increasing number of seniors are going online and learning how to navigate the web. It is not just seniors, but people of all ages that are becoming susceptible to this type of phishing, due to the official looking nature of these emails.

So, how do you protect yourself? The answer is simple, become an aware consumer and question any electronic correspondence regarding your accounts. The most basic way to determine if you have a legitimate letter is to call your bank, and talk to a representative. It is also advisable to go directly to the website, (avoiding the link provided in the email) and contact a representative using their secure, internal message server.

When surfing the Internet, avoid any pop-up browser windows that simulate virus-scanning software indicating a threat. Many of these scams fool their victims into downloading a fake anti-virus program at a considerable cost, or they infect an actual virus that opens the personal information stored on the computer, to scammers. Instead of letting this happen, utilize your own virus software to scan for a potential risk.

Remember the old adage if its too good to be true, then it probably is. Emails from people in foreign countries soliciting help, often promise a large compensation for assisting them to transfer funds through an American bank account. There are also emails that notify the recipient of winning a lottery, when there is no recollection of entering one. Both of these ploys target the recipient, so they will provide their account numbers in order to drain their bank accounts.

Spend more time browsing the Internet, and getting accustomed to interacting on websites. Also, consider researching books and taking courses on how to safely navigate the Internet. Many local colleges offer discounted pricing for seniors who enroll in their classes. This will provide you with up-to-date information on current scams, and how to safeguard your personal information.

In the end, its better to be safe than sorry. So, proceed with caution when you spend time online. Only provide information to a known trusted source, and dont be afraid to appear rude by asking for validation of whom youre dealing with. It might take you a little more time to go through this process, but ultimately the time and headache you save by not having to recover from an internet fraud will be priceless.