Ken Paxton
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Internet Safety

The Internet is a wonderful resource for seniors! It connects you with a world of good information about many vital topics, offers you the convenience of online shopping from the comfort of your home and can also be a means of inexpensive and immediate contact with friends and family. You may find that the younger members of your family are more accessible than ever, because for so many of them e-mail is the communications medium of choice.

There are dangers, however. You can easily avoid them if you observe a few simple precautions.

Ignore, Delete and Block SPAM

SPAM is junk mail sent to your email instead of your mailbox. Sometimes, however, SPAM can appear personally addressed to you. In either case, avoid it like the plague.

The key is to LEAVE SPAM alone. NEVER reply to it, NEVER click links embedded within it or open any of its attachments. If you reply to SPAM for any reason, spammers know your email address is active and they will continue sending you even more SPAM.

Unfortunately because the Internet is largely unregulated and most SPAM originates from outside the country, we cannot stop all unsolicited emails. Enforcement against foreign spammers is difficult even for federal authorities.

Beware of imposters (pretending to be your bank, your friend whose name you forgot, a well known store, even a government agency, etc.) This is just more SPAM. You should ignore, delete and block it. Unsolicited emails seeking your personal information should set off a red flag. Real businesses, government agencies, banks, and similar entities will never ask for your personal information in this manner. DON'T FALL FOR IT.

Ignore tempting ads with offers that sound too good to be true. Be especially careful of prescription drug offers. The drugs can be substandard, made in a country with no controls, or even contaminated.

Shopping Safely Online

Shop online with established businesses that also provide their physical address and a customer service number. Also use only secure connections when making your purchase. Your browser window should display https:// instead of http://. The "s" indicates its secure.

Never use a link embedded within an unsolicited email to shop. Instead look up the company's Web site yourself.

Exercise EXTREME caution with online acquaintances whom you might "meet" in chat rooms, social networks or other Web sites. People you "meet" online may not be who they say they are. They may be cons artists or predators. If you must chat, be very wary of overly friendly overtures. Do not agree to an individual, one-on-one meeting with someone you know only online. This is a rule for everyone to follow, not just seniors. Share information with your family and friends about your online activities.

Common Internet Scams

Get to know your online governmental resources! Visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for information about common scams. The official Medicare Web site is your best source of information if you have questions about your Medicare coverage. For a more general resource, visit the Federal Citizen Information Center.

By using the Internet wisely, you can reap a world of benefits. Use the list of links on the right of the Senior Texans pages to access some of the most trustworthy sites.