Guest post by SafeSeniors

Technology has a good side. It can bring the world to your doorstep, keeping you connected to those you know and love, sharing news from around the globe, offering a convenient way to bank, shop, and even visit the doctor!

Unfortunately, technology can also bring out those who want to do you harm. Social media and dating sites make it easy for someone to pretend to be who they are not, simply by using a fake photo and false information about their lives. Hackers and fraudsters work hard on tricky ways to get your information, whether by getting into databases of information or by pretending to be a legitimate company or organization.

Here are some ways to navigate safely.

Connecting to family and friends

Why it’s important:

  • Social connection is important to our mental, emotional, and physical health.
  • Staying connected to others can help prevent abuse, neglect, financial exploitation.

But imposter scammers use social media and other sites to target victims by pretending to be someone they are not or by pretending to be a family member or friend. Stay safer with these tips:

  • Check privacy settings – be very careful of what you share publicly.
  • Only accept friend requests from people you know.
  • Watch out for friend requests from those who are already on your friends list.

Shopping online

There are lots of good reasons to shop online:

  • Save time
  • Less stressful
  • Save gas
  • More choices
  • Health/Safety
  • Shop anytime

To safely shop online, you need to be careful with your information:

  • Check security on website – look for the lock symbol to the left of the URL.
  • Use a secure password if storing payment and other personal information.
  • Be cautious when paying others for purchases through third party sites like eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Craig’s List, etc.

Banking online

Just like with shopping, there are lots of good reasons to bank online:

  • Save time
  • Less stressful
  • Save gas
  • Health/Safety
  • Bank anytime

To safely bank online, you need to be careful with your information:

  • Use a secure password and keep it safe.
  • Do not give your banking information to anyone over the phone, email, or text unless you initiated the contact with your financial organization.

Staying healthy: telehealth

Seeing your doctor online in the convenience of your own home can save you time, keep you healthy, be less stressful, and save gas.

Be careful with your information when using telehealth options:

  • Use a secure password and keep it safe.
  • Do not give your banking information to anyone over the phone, email, or text unless you initiated the contact with your financial organization.

Money Exchange Apps

Money exchange apps can be a convenient way to pay for goods and services. They are also an easy way to pay back a friend or donate to a cause.

However, they are not regulated the way that financial institutions are, so you need to be cautious in using them:

  • Use with people/businesses you know and trust.
  • Be sure you have correct user name for the person you are paying.
  • Do not use these if someone calls/emails/texts you and requests payment for a “fine”, etc.

Imposters find it easy to hide online, so beware

Scammers will create emails and texts that look legitimate. Emails will even have the organization’s logo, copied from the official website.

Watch for:

  • Email address that does not end with the organization’s website address.
  • Poorly written, misspelled messages
  • A statement of an action you know you didn’t take (“per your request”, etc.)

Do not click on any links in an email or text you suspect to be fake.

Safe online connections: some tips

Be wary if someone messages you, but you don’t know who they are, especially if they ask lots of personal questions about you. Ask for proof of who they are.

Use your own phone or computer whenever possible. If you use a shared computer at the library or other public location, or use a friend’s device, be sure to log off your accounts when you are done.

Be careful about the kinds of photos and information you share. Once they are on the internet, you no longer have any control over them.

Never meet someone you’ve interacted with online alone, whether for a social visit or to buy/sell something. Meet in a public place and bring a friend.

Create and use generic email addresses whenever possible, like

Use strong passwords: try using the first letters from a favorite quote; add “book ends” to passwords to make it harder to guess: *8675309jcb* or 36bgdc47

Keep your passwords secure – Use a secure password keeper app on your phone. Or, if you need to keep a list of passwords written down, be sure to keep it in a secure place, such as a safe or a locked drawer, even if you live alone.

Don’t give your social security number or PIN numbers to ANYONE. Don’t provide account information to anyone unless you initiate the transaction.

Don’t make things public on social media for all to see or share with others, like vacations or new cars.

Get help if you think you have been scammed or financially exploited

Call Adult Protective Services at 855-444-3911 to get help.  You can also call your local police department, or 911 if it’s an emergency.

Learn more at

About the Author

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SafeSeniors is on of the AgeWell Services of West Michigan programs which works to identify, advocate, and seek justice for adult victims of abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation within Muskegon, Ottawa, and Oceana counties of Michigan. We will occasionally share posts on this blog from SafeSeniors.

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