Seniors advised on how to stay ahead of scammers, hackers

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Change your password and only friend the people you know. That was some of the advice given a group of senior Friday as Congressman Jim Langevin, co-founder and co-chair of the congressional cybersecurity caucus visited Pilgrim Senior Enrichment Center to offer ways for seniors to protect themselves from hackers and scams while surfing the web.

“You are not helpless,” Langevin said. “There are things you can do to protect yourself in this whole thing…The Internet is here to stay but it has never been built for security.”

Comparing it to locking your house and keeping your car safe from theft, seniors must take the right steps to stay away from today’s manipulation tactics and scams.

John Martin, a representative from Rhode Island AARP encouraged seniors to become involved in the AARP’s Fraud Watch Network which will keep members updated on recent scams and allow them to report a scam if they were to come across one. The website, aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork will allow seniors to stay informed and safe while spending time on Facebook and other popular sites.

“You have a part time job,” Martin said, comparing staying up-to-date on the latest scams to doctors reading recent medical journals.

Rhode Island Cybersecurity Officer Mike Steinmetz also gave a presentation about how to make sure the senior’s Facebook settings were set to private. He also told seniors about how changing passwords every so often is a good way to keep hackers out of their accounts. 

“Be careful about your location, too,” Steinmetz advised. “If you go on vacation post the pictures after you get home.”

RI State Police Computer Crimes Unit Captain, John Alfred discussed the different types of scams and how to identify them. He explained social engineering as a manipulation of people, criminals trying to get people to give them personal information that they can use to take advantage of and scam the individual.

Alfred stressed how important is to approach emails and websites with caution. He explained that hackers try to look like legitimate companies.

“Your bank is not going to reach out to you in an email asking for personal information,” he said. “Anytime someone asks you to wire money, be very suspicious. Try not to be too trusting… please be skeptical.” 

One senior, Christopher Brook explained how important he thought the information was, and he was glad to have learned it.

“All of this is very relevant,” Brook said. “The crooks are staying ahead of the legislation and common sense.”

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