"The Boomer” is a column written for adults nearing retirement age and those already in their “golden years.” It will also promote reader interaction by posting e-mail responses and answering reader questions. E-mail your questions or topic ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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As more and more baby boomers embrace the world of technology, they become increasingly vulnerable to risks posed by online identity theft and over sharing sensitive personal information.
Scammers are increasingly targeting boomers with online scams, and boomers need to become more defensive and aware of safe online practices.
AVG Technologies, an internet and mobile security provider, recently released a survey that shows boomers need to become more proactive with their digital security. Of baby boomers surveyed with home Internet access, AVG determined 65% don't check online banking statements more than once per week—putting them at a much greater risk of not being able to detect fraudulent activities.
I had a chance to speak with the CEO of AVG, JR Smith, to discuss some of the findings of the survey and how boomers can protect themselves. Here is what JR had to say:
Boomer: Why are so many baby boomers still not aware of the resources available to them to protect against identity theft?
Smith: AVG conducted a survey of the top 10 savviest cities in the U.S. for digital protection and found that baby boomers still have a lot of work to do when it comes to safeguarding against identity theft, financial fraud and loss of personal data.
Out of the 1,300 boomers who were contacted, it was determined that at least 10% have clicked on a link from a well-known company that turned out to be a phishing scam. This figure, along with the results that nearly 40% of those surveyed said they should research identity protection tools or monitoring services, shows there is still a lot of room for baby boomers to learn more about the resources that are available.
Boomer: How can baby boomers become more educated about digital scammers?
Smith: Boomers can become more educated by protecting themselves and their families with solutions that will prevent loss of data. Baby boomers can utilize tools such as AVG’s AntiVirus Free 2013 or AVG MultiMu to keep email protected, shop online without worrying about identity theft and share photos or information without having to look over one’s shoulder. They can also follow best practices that will prevent them from being taken advantage of by scammers.
Boomer: Why do scammers view the boomers as being deficient in online safety skills?
Smith: Although baby boomers are frequent users of technology platforms and devices (81% own desktop computers, 61% use laptops, and another 30% have smartphones. A surprising 20% use tablets to conduct online transactions), many scammers believe this population is not savvy enough when it comes to safeguarding their personal or online data. Devices such as tablets and smartphones make it possible for baby boomers to have access to family photos, financial documents or medical records from any location and at any time. But, many don’t know that if they’re in a public place such as a coffee shop, public Wi-Fi increases the threat of data theft. And, scammers are fully aware of this, leading them to carefully monitor how baby boomers interact with tech devices and their personal information.
Boomer: What tips can you give boomers to minimize the risk of fraudulent charges, identity theft and personal data lost?
Smith: Use one credit card with a low spending limit for all online purchases. Monitor this account regularly, and flag any inappropriate activity immediately to the bank or lending institution.
- Change passwords regularly, use variations for each online account, and never, ever share them with others.
- Back up data! Back up data on computers with external hard drives or a cloud-based solution. Don’t forget about mobile devices, too.
- Protect data on the go. The more personal information is shared via mobile devices, the more hackers will target these tools.
- Be wary of phishing scams. Never click on links in emails from banks, or other financial institutions – go directly to their URL and enter log-in information from their homepage.