Shopping, finding information, connecting with friends—it’s not that the Internet has changed the core of what we do, but how we do it. And with change comes a variety of new security measures necessary to keep anyone—but especially those susceptible to fraud—safe.

“The first thing is that people need to make sure they have adequate protection on any computer they’re using to reduce the chance that they’re going to have their computer affected by malware, and that happens typically when people get unsolicited emails and they click on an attachment,” says Christopher Thetford of the Better Business Bureau.

Before making any kind of a purchase online, Thetford recommends looking at the URL bar—the term used for the bar at the top of the page that holds the full name of the website, including the ‘www.’ and ‘.com’ aspects—and checking for the letters ‘https:’ at the beginning of the website name. “Just because you see a website that looks professional doesn’t mean you’re going to get professional service—when you transmit your financial information, you want to make sure you’re doing that through an encrypted page,” Thetford says.

In addition, other safety precautions include using a credit card when making online purchases and checking website businesses through the Better Business Bureau. “Always try to use a credit card to shop online; and the reason is that if you have problems with the delivery or the item that you’ve ordered then you have the protection of the credit card company to be able to make a claim," Thetford says.

Another payment option is a third-party website, says Patti Muich, marketing director of Delmar Gardens. “Some sites still take checks, but I would always suggest using a third party,” she says, noting PayPal as a reputable option. In addition, Muich notes the importance of making sure users stay on their desired website to avoid entering information into unintended places. “They should always keep their eyes on that address bar to make sure they are still on the site where they began.”

When providing personal information online, Joanna Jones-Raymond, marketing director of Friendship Village, explains that web users should be particularly cautious when providing “a full collection of information,” such as your name, birth date, social security number and credit cards. “If you’re working with a reputable sender or someone with whom you have an established relationship, typically they’re looking to confirm you identity,” Jones-Raymond says. “You should get really suspicious when someone is asking for everything.”

Jones-Raymond notes that some residents express concern about so much information being available about them online. She cites that some studies have shown that if you search a name of a casual Internet user online, there is a photo available of almost 70 percent of users; for more than half, an address and birth date can be found. While this is similar to information previously available, such as the telephone book, it can now be accessed from home computers. “You can’t ignore technology; you can’t say you’re not participating in it—it’s already there. So now, how do you become a savvy user, and how do you protect yourself in the ways that are really important?”

Should fraud become apparent, Muich recommends seniors utilize the resources of the government website

Online Tips

• Use credit cards when shopping online.

• Be wary of unsolicited emails.

• Keep an eye on the URL bar to make sure you haven’t changed websites.

• Make sure your computer has up-to-date virus protection software.

• Be cautious when providing information such as date of birth or social security number.

• Research online companies with the Better Business Bureau.

• When supplying personal or financial information, check for ‘https:’ in the URL bar.

More Special Features articles.