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47663903 - technology, communication age and people concept - close up of senior woman hands with smartphone texting message at homeMore and more retirees are taking advantage of the latest technologies to keep in touch with loved ones, shop online, and get more involved in their communities. The majority of seniors now go online, according to Pew Research, and recent retirees are the most likely to enter their golden years with computer skills they learned on the job, from relatives, or simply because of how easy the Internet makes everyday tasks like looking up phone numbers, staying in touch with old friends and classmates, organizing get-togethers for golf, the symphony, or a trip to see the grandkids. There’s so many benefits to technology that of the 32% of seniors who don’t use the Internet, 49% feel that “people lacking internet access are at a real disadvantage because of all the information they might be missing.”

That said, there are real risks to going online if you don’t know how to protect yourself from bad people who might want to take advantage of seniors. Your retirement fund is very attractive to criminals, and while you may know how to protect yourself from real-life crime or phone scams, the internet does offer criminals new ways of targeting vulnerable people of all ages. Fortunately, there’s no reason to miss out on video chatting with your grandchildren, learning more about other places and cultures, connecting with others who share your hobbies, or snagging great deals from online stores. You just need a little savvy to protect yourself as you cruise the World Wide Web.

You already know to protect your social security number, to hide your PIN code at the ATM, and not to give out your credit card information to strangers. The same rules apply online. If you receive emails asking you for personal information and you don’t recognize the sender, don’t respond or download attached files. You can always double check via phone or in person with your bank, loan officer, family member, friends, or law enforcement agency to verify that an email is legitimate. When in doubt, ask a trusted friend, tech savvy senior, or reputable computer store for advice. The Core Apple Specialist on McFarland Blvd NE and Best Buy are both legitimate options for computer advice and repairs.

You’d be surprised who criminals will impersonate in an attempt to gain your information. Cybercriminals come up with all kinds of stories, like characters down on their luck in need of a wire transfer or online financial transaction, or Nigerian princes trying to get home. They might play on your best character traits or make you feel sorry for them. They may also take the approach of impersonating authority figures like the FBI, loan officers, or bank officials. Their requests might as simple as letting you know you need to change your password— but always remember that reputable companies and institutions will never ask you for personal information via email as a security precaution. They’ll want you to log in on their secure website in order to handle any sensitive personal information.

Cybercriminals may even try to find out the names of your grandchildren or family members in order to get money, passwords, or other protected data. Trust your instincts— if something seems to be too good to be true, like a message informing you you’ve won the lottery or sweepstakes, but now owe taxes.

Be careful when using public WiFi, or wireless internet, that isn’t password protected. Many businesses have WiFi networks now, like coffee shops, museums, shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. These are fine to use for quickly browsing the Internet, but you don’t want to share personal information over a WiFi network that doesn’t require a password to login. The barista, bartender, hostess, or manager at any given business will be able to give you the login information for a secure WiFi network.

Don’t let this scare you off, however, from the possibility of using the Internet to expand your horizons. By taking precautions, using common sense, and staying alert, you can hazily connect to those around you without consequence. While there is no going back to the pre-Internet era, there’s no reason to fear the future or miss out on what’s happening in today’s digital landscape, whether it’s connecting regularly with far-away family, checking the day’s weather, or looking up the instructions for a new game to play with friends and neighbors.