At Rosewood Retirement, we’re lucky to be right next door to Chattanooga, Tennessee, home to the fastest internet in the Western Hemisphere. Chattanooga has built quite a thriving tech scene, with more and more companies flocking to the beautiful Tennessee Valley. With 277,436,130 Americans online, it’s no surprise that these tech companies have business that takes place entirely online, whether they focus on retail, news publishing, human resources, finance, marketing, gaming, or even moving services. And now more and more seniors are flocking to the internet, too, because those same business are making it easier than ever to:

  • Compare prices and read reviews before making online purchases or booking services
  • Study up on medications or health conditions, or read tutorials and watch videos on nutrition, exercise, or even mental acuity and memory exercises
  • Read new books, magazines, and newspapers for free or cheaper than you can through traditional methods
  • Watch the local and national news from multiple outlets, along with network and cable programing streamed straight to the computer
  • Finding new crochet patterns, painting techniques, gardening ideas, or even play board games online with people all over the world
  • Send letters to the editor, or government representatives, or comment on favorite websites to engage in broader cultural, political, or religious conversations
  • Stay in touch with friends and family no matter where they are with social media apps like Facebook and video chat services like Skype, Google Video, and Face-Time

However, as many amazing opportunities as there are online, there are also many opportunities for criminals to target seniors. Bad people often assume seniors don’t have the tech savvy to look out for scams, but as more and more retirees get online, they learn how to protect themselves from scams. Here are some precautions you can take to make sure that no one takes advantage of you:

Beware Nigerian Princes
It might sound like a ridiculous statement if you don’t know about this common scam, but many people have been taken by emails from a supposed heir to the Nigerian throne trying to transfer millions of dollars out of Nigeria. The sender asks the recipient for his or her bank account number to safeguard a small portion of these funds, with the promise of a later, larger reward. This may sound low-risk because money will supposedly be transferred IN to your bank account, not out, but you should never give away personal information of this sort online. Not only could the money eventually go in the other direction, but you could be held legally liable for participating (even unknowingly) in these sorts of money laundering schemes. This scheme isn’t limited to Nigerian royalty either— similar money transfer schemes may come with other stories, some less fantastical, and often include language about the “urgent, private” nature of the request.

Lock Up Your Email
So you know not to give out your financial or personal information on purpose. But you still need to be careful that cyber criminals don’t steal your information without you knowing, by say, figuring out your email password, or tricking you into giving up other login info (such as that for your online bank, insurance, or investment account) by getting you to click on a convincing link. Beware any email from a sender you don’t recognize, even if it’s designed to look similar to those sent by your credit card company, a government agency, or even law enforcement.

Seemingly innocent emails inquiring about your well-being, mentioning missing person’s reports, or threatening to call the police if you don’t respond are all a ploy to entangle you in conversation and trick you into giving away information of any sort. Set up a spam filter, or get a trusted friend or family member who is tech savvy to help you do so. Microsoft Outlook and Yahoo Mail both have spam filters with good reputations and new security features. You can also be proactive by creating a complex password that includes both upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols that is hard for others to figure out. If you’re worried about remembering it, you can write it down on paper and store it in a very safe place.

Know Your Connections
Increasingly, people use the Internet away from home, taking a laptop, tablet, or smart phone to places like coffee shops, restaurants, shops, galleries, or event venues. Many businesses now have WiFi networks to help customers connect and take advantage of coupons and loyalty programs. Be cautious, though, about using an unsecured wireless network. A safe wireless network will ask you for a password, one that you will be able to get from the clerk or manager. You should also regularly install security patches and ensure your virus protection program is up to date. A good computer store can help you with this, such as Angry Squirrel Computers or Best Buy. Be cautious, however, of pop-up windows that tell you that you need to clear your computer of junk or are virus infested. These can be attempts to get you to pay a large sum for what appears to be anti-virus software but is actually spyware or malware that will give out your credit or debit card information.

With simple steps like these to stay safe, you too can see why the tech scene is booming in Chattanooga. Book movie tickets, send flowers, email former classmates, share photos on social media, research travel destinations, or look up reviews of generic medications versus name brand medications, and more. With the Internet, more than ever is possible with just a few clicks of the mouse!