Seniors on the InternetJennifer Martinez
From healthcare to finances to emailing loved ones, the Internet is a safe and convenient way for seniors to save time and stay active. And while computers and the Internet can be daunting at first, it's easy to learn how to use them safely and efficiently.
If you're a senior -- or just needs tips for the grandparents -- the Internet is full of opportunities for seniors to stay informed and stay in touch with family and friends. Getting online makes it easy for you to take care of business -- from using online banking to paying bills -- bypassing the mall or post office to get errands done. And many health care providers have web sites where you can find a doctor, track your benefits, schedule appointments, and even order prescription refills.
But for those who aren't Internet savvy, here are three steps to take to get started and to sidestep pitfalls:
1. Learn the basics Basic computer skills are easy to learn and training resources abound. Many senior centers, community colleges and clubs offer computer classes. The Internet itself has resources -- organizations like SeniorNet #IF($EnableExternalLinks)(seniornet.o#COMMENT#ENDCOMMENTrg)#ENDIF and AARP#IF($EnableExternalLinks) (aarp.o#COMMENT#ENDCOMMENTrg)#ENDIF, which are committed to educating and enabling seniors online.
2. Secure your computer Staying safe on the Internet requires awareness and the right tools. High-tech burglars and vandals use viruses and other methods to compromise computers. So, just as you use locks to keep criminals out of your home, you also need to secure your computer. For example, make sure to install anti-virus software. Like a home security system, it blocks intruders while letting friends through. It also automatically detects and removes dangerous viruses.
3. Avoid scams Unfortunately, there are con artists at work on the Internet. For instance, you may receive an email explaining how you're entitled to money from a long lost relative's estate. All you have to do is provide your bank account number to a lawyer in Kenya. Don't respond to these kinds of emails -- delete them. If your instincts tell you something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Also, never give out your social security number online. In scams known as phishing attacks, criminals impersonate legitimate organizations to elicit personal or financial information. They use fake emails and web sites to masquerade as banks, government agencies, online auction sites and even charities.
These scams arrive unsolicited in your email box -- and that's the first clue they're not legitimate. No reputable company or organization will ever ask for social security numbers or other sensitive information in an unsolicited email.
Phishing emails will direct you to a web site to enter information. While the web site may sport the company's logo and appear completely legitimate, if you look closely at the web address, you'll probably find it doesn't match the organization's actual address. The bottom line: Don't respond to unsolicited emails, and always contact an organization directly before providing any personal information online.
Although the Internet may seem intimidating at first, it's more than worth the time it takes to learn the basics. Before you know it, you'll be surfing like a pro.
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