August 4th, 2016 – According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, baby boomers are embracing new technologies 20 times faster than members of Generation Y, including social sites, podcasts and blogs. With this new interest comes new challenges.
Amanda Rhodes, consumer technology specialist with Mid-Continent Public Library, agrees with this. The bulk of her students are 65 years and older.
“Seniors are my predominant audience,” she said. “We teach computer classes and cater them to beginners, and while we aren’t concerned about their ages, we do have about 80 percent of the students who are older.”
Rhodes and a co-worker are the content writers and often teach classes if the presenters at the various branches in the three-county library system need help. A couple of popular classes cover internet safety and Cloud storage use.
“We have one class entirely on internet safety, and the main focus is how to stay safe online,” she said. “We focus on how to identify safe websites and a lot of general rules. It’s a lot about common sense such as not posting a picture of yourself outside your house where you can read the address. Another is not posting pictures while on vacation. Facebook definitely facilitates these conversations. With the Cloud storage class, we talk about creating strong passwords, and sometimes older participants worry about forgetting them, but we talk about the strength of the password and its importance.”
Rhodes said many people, regardless of age, suffer from a “translation gap” that she explains as not seeing the computer world as reality.
“If I could stress with people, should you have good instincts in real life, use them online too,” she said. “If some website has a pop-up that looks dubious, back out and get out. Don’t click forward. In internet safety, we talk about the various phishing and spoofing scams. We talk about how convincing these can be. It is like any other crime. Call the police, and then call your bank or credit card provider.”
Last year, 2,000 people took advantage of the technology classes offered through MCPL. Rhodes said she often has to help folks realize they need some confidence to know that they can be on the computer.
“There is often a fear that they might mess something up, but most things can be undone,” she said. “It’s about educating folks on being careful. The language is so different — malware and so on. The benefits outweigh the risks. Think about it like this. If a person is in a fender-bender, most of us don’t stop driving. You just pay attention and try to eliminate that fear. If anything, we talk about how the library’s website is safe.”
In the past few months, the staff at Clay County Savings Bank has been acutely aware of scams that are perpetrated on senior citizens. They offered a seminar in mid-June on senior fraud in conjunction with the Liberty Silver Center and Clay County Sheriff Paul Vescovo.
The Federal Trade Commission also sends out free help information to combat scams.
Clay County Savings Assistant Vice President Jackie Murtha said she receives calls from seniors several times a month about a phone call that ends with someone remotely hacking into a computer while absconding with the senior’s credit card and often other banking information.
“I get these calls, and the senior citizen who banks with us tells me that he or she has done something they shouldn’t have done,” she said. “Somehow, someone unscrupulous got into their computer and has locked them out of it.”
Kirk White, information technology officer and assistant vice president for the bank, said ransomware is commonplace.
“Most of the time, it’s something like $250 to get the computer freed,” Murtha said. “Unfortunately, the scammer now has the person’s credit card number.”
Bill Grotts, compliance officer and assistant vice president, calls it “social engineering” where scammers are well versed in the language and technologically savvy, allowing them to prey on those who have less technological backgrounds.
“The individuals have computer programming as well as telemarketing skills,” he said. “Their script is more convincing than others.”
White said, as Rhodes mentioned, the scammers are fast talkers and can confuse a person.
“If there is a way to be calm, tell them that you want their name and the name of their company,” he said. “Tell them you will call them back. Usually you never hear from them again. Perhaps if you seem to receive these calls often, have a coach or resource who can help you work through the steps to protect yourself.”
More times than not, the bank’s response is to close credit card and checking accounts.
“With the advent of online banking, the ease is there, but so must be the vigilance,” Murtha said.
Grotts said whatever the person’s age, account holders should look at bank statements and balances frequently. White suggested setting up alerts, too.
“With smartphones, we have a computer in every pocket,” Grotts said. “The pendulum is swinging back to go from being more open to looking at the necessary steps to protect and encrypt our files. It pays to be vigilant. We know people want faster and easier access.”
Murtha said one recent scam is a call saying that the victim’s home computer has pornography on it and the police are coming.
“That can be scary,” she said. “… Just don’t be intimidated by those high-pressure calls.”
She advises against sharing too much on social media like Facebook. Grotts warns against oversharing personal information on genealogical sites.
White recommends not using public Wi-Fi and if there is doubt about the security of a home computer, the user should unplug it from the wall and turn it off.
With Clay County Savings Bank being smaller, its staff knows their customers, but they have to be careful with the advice they offer.
“It’s about being friendly but professional,” Grotts said. “It’s a challenge to not have folks be afraid, but also to have conversations. Perhaps adult children can talk with their parents. Keep it conversational and in the family.”
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