Internet Safety for Baby Boomers: Threats and Safety Tips

Older couple sitting on a couch next to a screen with a Wi-Fi shield and a lock

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Quick Overview: Internet Safety for Baby Boomers

While everyone is at risk of falling victim to the deceptive schemes of cybercriminals, seniors, especially those 60 years and over, may be more susceptible than other age groups.

There are various threats to baby boomers online, including:

  • Malware
  • Phishing
  • Financial fraud
  • Catfishing
  • Data breaches

There are various ways to bolster your defenses and protect yourself against these threats.

For example, by not re-using the same password across multiple accounts, you’ll reduce your exposure in the event of a breach. Also, using cybersecurity solutions like antivirus and a VPN can protect you from malware, tracking, and other nefarious schemes of scammers.

There are numerous VPNs available today, but we recommend NordVPN. This provider provides excellent security and has many remarkable features.

Continue reading to learn more about internet safety for baby boomers.


The baby boom generation — people born between 1946 and 1964 just after World War II — make up a substantial part of the global population. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are over 70 million baby boomers.

While this age group contributed significantly to the invention of modern computing and the internet, they are generally less tech-savvy than younger generations who grew up with the internet.Laptop With Lock

Surveys show baby boomers, younger boomers, and even the silent generation are more apprehensive about online security. There are good reasons for this.

The 2021 FBI Elder Fraud Report indicates that cybercrimes against older adults over 60 in the U.S. resulted in almost $1.7 billion in damages. And according to the LexisNexis Risk Solutions biannual Cybercrime Report, internet users over 75 years old are among the groups most vulnerable to cybercrime.

Are you concerned about staying safe online? This article will highlight some common online threats to baby boomers. We’ll also outline practical internet safety tips for seniors.

Malware

Viruses and other malware pose a significant threat to your online safety. While everyone is at risk, baby boomers are especially susceptible to this. Malware is often used to perpetrate scams on elderly folks.

Note: We’ll shed more light on this in the section on phishing below.

Seniors who don’t spend much time online may be unfamiliar with the devious schemes cybercriminals use to spread malware. A report by the Pew Research Center notes that younger generations (people aged 18 to 28) are generally more cautious about spyware and their security online than Americans born in the late 60s and 70s.

Malware can do a lot of damage and compromise your privacy. It can even spread from personal devices to an entire network.

Viruses are not the only type of malware. Plenty of other malicious software can infect your device. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Keylogger

Keyloggers record everything you type. They work quietly in the background, monitoring your keystrokes. Keyloggers can expose your login credentials, credit card details, and other sensitive data to hackers. This can lead to identity theft, data theft, and other criminal exploits.

  • Ransomware

Ransomware encrypts all the files on laptops, mobile devices, or even a network, blocking access to them. They may also send a copy to the threat actor. Hackers often demand a ransom from victims before releasing their files.

  • Adware

Adware works surreptitiously in the background, serving you annoying pop-ups and other ads. They also track your online activities to deliver targeted ads and may open the door for other malware to infect your device.

  • Browser hijacker

A browser hijacker is a type of malware that takes control of your browser, changing its settings. It may even redirect you to websites you haven’t searched for.

  • Trojan horse

A Trojan horse is a malicious program made to look like legitimate software to trick users into downloading and installing it. Threat actors use Trojans to worm their way into a victim’s device or network.

Tips to protect your devices from malware

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to keep your system and your network safe from malware. Below, we highlight some important safety tips to create an effective protective barrier that will keep malware away.

6 tips to prevent and combat online viruses and malware, with illustrations

  1. Get a good antivirus solution. Most modern antiviruses protect against malware.
  2. Configure the firewall settings on your device for maximum protection. Most antivirus solutions come with a firewall.
  3. Learn about different malware and how to know if your device is infected. Our malware library contains in-depth articles about various malicious programs.
  4. Be careful with the websites you visit. Does a website look shady? You can use an online tool like Norton Safe Web to see if it contains malware.
  5. Don’t click links from unknown sources. It might take you to a malware-laden web page.
  6. Do not open attachments from unknown sources, as they might contain malware.

Phishing

Phishing is one of the biggest cybersecurity threats to baby boomers online. The FBI’s 2021 Internet Crime Report shows a significant rise in phishing attacks since 2017. In 2017, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received just over 25,000 reports of phishing attacks, but in 2021, that figure climbed to nearly 324,000.

One possible reason for this spike is that it has become increasingly difficult to differentiate a scam message from a legitimate one. Cybercriminals are putting a lot of effort into making their scam messages seem legitimate. Seniors who do not spend much time online may be more likely to fall for phishing scams.

Phishing is a type of social engineering attack. Cybercriminals take advantage of the inherent trust victims have in friends, relatives, or organizations to trick them into handing over sensitive information or compromising their privacy.

In phishing attacks, cybercriminals usually contact victims by email, social media sites, text, or phone, posing as a company or friend. Phishing messages often have a sense of urgency, compelling victims to act immediately to avert a perceived danger.

For example, a cybercriminal may contact a victim, posing as a bank representative, to warn about imminent danger to the victim’s account. To help the victim safeguard their funds, the scammer may request their PIN code or login credentials.

There are various types of phishing attacks, from relatively simple messages to more complex schemes that involve creating fake landing pages. Phishing is often the first step for other scams like WhatsApp fraud and CEO fraud.

Below, we outline some internet safety tips to help combat phishing.

Tips to identify and stop phishing attacks

While it’s difficult to identify a phishing attempt, there are some telltale signs that you can look out for. The basic cybersecurity practices we highlight below can improve your safety on internet forums, social media, websites, and other platforms.

5 tips to prevent and combat online phishing, with illustrations

  1. Look out for improper language or spelling errors. This may indicate the email or text isn’t from an official source.
  2. Inspect the sender’s email address. Cybercriminals usually try to spoof the email addresses of companies but change small details, like one letter.
  3. Never hand over sensitive data online. Most companies won’t ask you for sensitive information via email or phone. If you doubt a message is legitimate, contact the organization by phone or visit their offices to verify.
  4. Be wary of attachments and links. Cybercriminals often send malicious attachments and links in messages or emails to snare unsuspecting victims with malware. When in doubt, do not click on any suspicious links or attachments.
  5. Activate your email spam filter. This will keep a lot of phishing emails from reaching your inbox. Be sure to whitelist important email addresses to keep receiving messages from them.

For more information about how to spot and stop phishing attacks, check our detailed guide to phishing.

Financial Fraud

The baby boomer generation is among the groups most at risk of falling victim to financial fraud. While they may not constitute a big part of the nation’s labor force, they have huge spending power. Scammers often target people who have some money and are perceived to be more gullible.

The effect of financial fraud on baby boomers can be devastating. It drains the wealth they’ve accumulated over years and even their social security benefits.

Online banking or financial fraud can take various forms:

  • Scammers can steal the login to your investment or banking accounts on unsafe WiFi networks.
  • Scammers can use a keylogger to steal your investment or banking login information while you’re conducting online transactions.
  • Scammers can steal the login to your online accounts or access your PIN code using phishing and other social engineering schemes.
  • Scammers can trick people online into putting their money in scam investments.
  • Scammers can use QR code fraud to steal a victim’s money.

Today, most financial institutions use security mechanisms, like encryption, on their online platforms. This makes it much more difficult for anyone to steal your banking details. However, that’s not enough.

Hackers have stolen assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars from crypto and finance platforms over the past few years. That’s why we recommend taking your online safety into your hands.

Using a virtual private network (VPN) can provide some level of security and anonymity online. A VPN encrypts your internet traffic, hides your IP address, and routes your traffic through an additional server.

This makes it nearly impossible for anyone to see what you’re doing online or track your online activities.

There are many excellent VPNs. NordVPN is our top pick. It comes with military-grade encryption and lots of useful security features.

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Tips to prevent financial fraud

Below, we outline some tips that can help to prevent banking and financial fraud.

6 tips to prevent and combat online financial fraud, with illustrations

  1. Avoid unsafe WiFi networks and use a VPN when browsing, especially when accessing banking apps or investment websites.
  2. Use a good antivirus solution to protect your device from malware.
  3. Never scan a QR code unless it’s on secure websites that you trust or from a person you know and trust.
  4. If a banking or investment portal offers two-factor authentication, use it. Most platforms offer this option and may even make it mandatory.
  5. Learn about the security mechanisms of any platform you’re using to store, invest, or transfer money and other valuables online.
  6. Do not share your banking details with any shady platform when shopping online.

Catfishing

Catfishing is one of the most common scams. A catfish (in internet lingo) is pretending to be somebody you’re not. Cybercriminals usually do this to trick victims under the guise of kindling a romantic relationship with them.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), people 70 years old and over have the highest median losses from catfishing — $9,000. It’s easy to fall for a catfishing scam, whether you’re the same age or younger.

It’s important to note that not every instance of catfishing may be a financial scam. Sometimes, people engage in catfishing because they feel they’re not getting enough romantic attention.

Catfishing is only a financial scam when the perpetrator deceives their “online partners” into sending them money or sharing their banking details. According to the FTC, this is a major problem in the U.S. In 2021, romance scams accounted for about $547 million in damages.

Catfishing is not limited to dating sites. It’s also widespread on social media platforms and, to a lesser degree, email. How do you prevent yourself from getting catfished? That’s the question we’ll answer below.

Tips to avoid falling victim to a catfish

The following are some signs to help you determine if you’re getting catfished.

5 signs you might be dealing with a catfish online, with illustrations

1. Are they asking for money?

If you’re chatting with someone you’ve never met online, and they suddenly ask you for money, that’s a big red flag.

2. Do they have an online presence?

If the person has no online presence, this could be a warning sign. Today, it’s highly unusual not to have an online presence. The absence of any online presence could mean you’re chatting with someone who doesn’t exist.

3. Was their profile created recently?

If you’ve come across a recently created profile, this could be a sign of a catfish. Many platforms allow you to check when a social media account was created.

For instance, on Facebook, you can go to the profile page of the person you want to investigate. You’ll see an Intro section in the top left corner. This section should state when the profile was created and other information.

4. Are they avoiding video calls?

If the person you’re talking to avoids video calls, you might be dealing with a catfish. A catfish will prefer to communicate via text messages.

5. Are they using stolen pictures?

This might be the most obvious warning sign that something isn’t right. If the person you’re talking to is using a fake picture, there is a high probability you’re being catfished.

Data Breaches

Data breaches pose a serious threat to the privacy of everyone, including baby boomers. Individuals and organizations often get hacked today, exposing sensitive data like:

  • Names, dates of birth, etc
  • Passport details
  • Email addresses
  • Bank account information
  • Credit card details
  • Login details to various accounts
  • Cryptocurrency wallet details

Cybercriminals usually sell the data they obtain from data breaches on the dark web. Data breaches are just as likely to happen to seniors as they are to everyone else.

According to a case study by NordVPN, there are over 22,000 listings for stolen data on dark web marketplaces. The researchers counted about 720,000 sales of stolen personal data, which generated up to $17.3 million.

While some things are beyond your control, there are steps you can take to reduce your exposure in the event of a data breach.

Tips to protect yourself from data breaches

There’s little you can do to ensure a company uses the best security solutions to prevent a data breach. However, there are ways you can make sure that your privacy is not compromised in the event of a breach.

We also outline some basic cybersecurity habits that will make it difficult for hackers to breach your accounts.

5 tips to protect your data from data breaches, with illustrations

1. Use different secure passwords for each account

Avoid re-using the same password. If you use the same password for multiple accounts, your privacy is at risk if this password is leaked.

2. Change your passwords regularly

It can take a long time before a data breach is announced, and sometimes you won’t hear about it at all. By changing your passwords often (like every three months, for instance), you can prevent unauthorized access to your accounts.

3. Use a password manager

It’s best practice to create long, complex passwords for all your online accounts. But it is almost impossible to memorize several unique, cryptic passwords. That’s why we recommend using a password manager.

Using a password manager takes away the headache of creating a highly secure password. It also eliminates the need to recall all your passwords. You can generate a password with one click and save them.

There are many remarkable password managers available today. 1Password is one of the best among the lot.

4. Use a dark web monitoring tool

Most of the time, you may not know you’ve been the victim of a data breach or that your personal information has been leaked on the dark web until it’s too late. That’s why we recommend using a dark web monitoring tool to scan for your personal information on dark web forums and marketplaces.

You can choose from basic tools like Have I Been Pwned or more advanced tools like Norton LifeLock. Some password managers, like NordPass, also have built-in monitoring tools to scan the web for leaked credentials.

5. Only share your data with trustworthy platforms

You have no control over how organizations handle your data. However, you can choose who you share your data with. If a website seems shady or untrustworthy, don’t give them your personal information.

Conclusion

Internet safety for seniors must include learning about threats and actively defending yourself against them.

We’ve highlighted some of the most common scams baby boomers may encounter and how to stay safe online. We also recommend checking out the insightful articles below to learn more about internet securityy for baby boomers, previous generations, and younger generations.

Internet Safety for Baby Boomers: Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have a question about internet safety for seniors? Click on any question below to see the answer. Leave us a comment if you don’t see the question you want an answer to.

There are several things you can do to stay safe online. However, these are the three top things we recommend.

  1. Use a good antivirus and VPN software.
  2. Keep your password secure and avoid re-using the same password. Ideally, use a password manager.
  3. Never share your personal information on shady websites. Also, don’t click on any links or attachments from unknown sources.

For more useful tips, read our article on internet safety for seniors.

The best way to boost internet safety for seniors is to ensure they’re well-informed about online threats. This article contains more information about the dangers to baby boomers online.

There are several threats to seniors online. But, the top dangers to keep an eye out for include financial fraud, catfishing, phishing, malware, and data breaches.

Corporate IT security expert
Susan has been involved in the IT security sector since the early nineties, working across diverse sectors such as file encryption, digital rights management, digital signing, and online identity. Her mantra is that security is about human beings as much as it is about technology.