On-Line Safety for Seniors? We've Got That!

By Joshua Seidemann, Vice President of Policy, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association 

March 23, 2018

Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote, "In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love." If Tennyson (who died in 1892) were alive today, he might have written "darkly turns to deceit." Such is the hazard of on-line dating. 

The Wall Street Journal recently published advice for potential victims of on-line scams. "Avoiding a Bad Date Takes Some Work" was aimed at users of on-line dating sites, but it contains a wealth of information and advice that is particularly suitable for those who may not be as naturally familiar with the need to practice good cyber hygiene. A director for AARP observed that senior citizens have fallen prey to no-good on Facebook, Tinder and other sites. One piece of advice for senior citizens looking for love? Don't advertise that you are independently wealthy.

Other wise counsel? Use a reverse image search on Google to determine whether the courtier is true, or an alias. Be judicious in the details you share - the WSJ observes that a scammer could seize upon a description of personal religious commitment or experience with illness by sharing similar interests - which may not be true. To be sure, any on-line dating or compatibility site will require some disclosure of personal details, but users are advised to keep their antennae poised. 

A digital literacy class at Copper Valley Telecom.

NTCA member Copper Valley Telecom in Valdez, Alaska, has helped senior citizens navigate these new norms. In partnership with a local community college and supported by a Smart Rural Community award, Copper Valley presented classes in on-line literacy to senior citizens. These sessions focused on basic computer skills and instructions for getting on-line, but also offered guidance on the need for cyber safety. My own community offers a Senior Cyber Café periodically throughout the year. Staffed by high school students (many of whom use the sessions to fulfill community service hours (required by the schools of all students)), the open hall meetings are an opportunity for senior citizens to bring any device, and to ask any question.

With enough education, we'll be able to stick to Tennyson's happier view of the world.