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We more connected to technology than ever before. We can get our news the moment it happens; we can learn about complex subjects from information sources around the world; we can run errands, do our banking and shopping, without leaving home; and we share ideas and keep in touch with family and friends, no matter their location. All of this is due, in part, to cyber technology. Yet for all of its advantages, increased connectivity brings increased risk of theft, fraud, and abuse.

As of April 2012, 53 percent of Americans age 65 and older use the Internet or email – the first time this group has exceeded 50 percent in several years. Increasingly older Americans use the Internet to get involved in community groups, shop, plan travel, manage finances, and keep in touch with family and friends. But while the Internet brings many conveniences, it also comes with risks. Cybercriminals use sophisticated techniques to appear legitimate; they pose as friends or family members, banks, charities, mortgage vendors, and even healthcare and low-cost prescription providers to steal information in order to conduct identity theft, phishing schemes, credit card fraud, and more. Learning about ways to protect your identity and personal information online is just as important as understanding how to use the latest technology. Fortunately, making safer and smarter decisions online can be as simple as following these tips:

  • Choose a password that means something to you and you only; use strong passwords with eight characters or more that use a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols.
  • Keep your mobile devices in your possession at all times and always be aware of your surroundings.
  • If you use social networking sites such as Facebook, be sure to limit the amount of personal information you post online and use privacy settings to avoid sharing information widely.
  • Most businesses or organizations don’t ask for your personal information over email. Beware of any requests to update or confirm your personal information.
  • Avoid opening attachments, clicking on links, or responding to email messages from unknown senders or companies that ask for your personal information.
  • Install and regularly update the security programs on your computer, such as antivirus, and anti-spyware. These programs can help to protect the information on your computer, and can easily be purchased from software companies on the web or at your local office supply store.
  • Beware of "free" gifts or prizes. If something is too good to be true, then it probably is.
  • It is important to add only people you know on social media sites and programs like Skype; adding strangers could expose you and your personal information to scammers.