3 Tips to help seniors get the best from technology.
A smartphone is a fantastic invention. It’s a great tool for staying connected and informed. Many smartphones are easy to use and customizable, which makes them attractive for the aging crowd. Video-chat with the grandkids, text friends, listen to audiobooks, watch videos, snap and share pictures, access the Internet for news – a smartphone does it all. Knowing that an emergency phone call is always within reach is a valuable selling point, as well.
If your parents are using a smartphone or considering one, it’s important to make sure they understand that this useful gadget comes with some risks. Here are three things to keep in mind.
1. Password safety
What’s the best password? Most seniors would say it’s something they can easily remember. That’s true, but the problem with typical passwords is that they are too easy to guess. If the phone gets lost or stolen, all that stands between the thief and personal data is a flimsy password that won’t last two minutes. So, encourage your parents to choose a strong password that doesn’t include repeating numbers, their address, or their birthday.
2. Text and phone call scams
Spammy phone calls and text scams are on the rise, and your parents may not realize it. Talk to them about staying vigilant. Encourage them to ignore phone calls from numbers they don’t recognize, and to delete text messages that look suspicious. Some criminals prey on trusting parents by posing as a family member in trouble and asking for money. Tell your parents that you or your siblings would never use texts to ask for financial help.
3. Use apps with caution
The app store is the modern equivalent of a candy shop – so many things to try, all of them shiny. Apps can certainly be useful and fun, by caution your parents against using them without discretion.
Some apps might appear to be free but will trick you into spending money. It will look like an “accident” on your side, but don’t be fooled – the developers of the app know exactly what they are doing! Other apps are only free for a certain “trial period” and will hit your bank account with a big charge after the fact (sometimes 6-12 months later). Unless you’ve read the fine print, you wouldn’t know the charge is coming.
And then there are over-reaching app permissions and malware. Yes, some apps have only one purpose: to capture your personal data. Fixing the damage from “free” apps like that can cost hundreds of dollars or more if your identity is compromised.
Smartphone safety for your aging parents
Smartphones can improve quality of life. They make it possible for aging adults to live independently, knowing that help or company are just a few clicks away.
However, it’s important to follow safety rules. Help your parents pick a secure password, tell them that phone scams aren’t just for landlines, and encourage them to use apps with caution.
One more point before we wrap up. Warn your parents to be mindful about what they store on their phones. Some people think that the phone is a handy place to save a picture of their SSN card, Medicare card, driver’s license, or other personal documents. It really is a convenient shortcut. However, in case of theft, all those documents would be in the hands of a fraudster who can use them to impersonate your parents to apply for a loan, open a credit card, or get access to their bank account. Then your parents are potentially on the hook for loan payments, credit card balances, and lost savings. Personal information should be safeguarded at all times!
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