Picture of Donna Harlow

It’s easier than ever to stay connected to family, especially if some of your family members have moved away. Between emailing, texting, video chats and social media, there’s less fear of missing out on the lives of your children and grandchildren.

Staying connected is great, but it can also create channels for scammers to take advantage of people. It’s common for senior adults to be targets for cybercrimes.

There are several things you can do to protect yourself. Check out these tips to keep your personal information safe when you’re using your device(s):

Think before you click.

Cyberscammers use various methods to target senior adults. It’s important to spot the red flags:

  • Phishing: Phishing is when a scammer will disguise their email address to make it look like it’s from someone you know, or a familiar company. One way to tell if it's legitimate is to hover over the email address (but don't click) to see if the name matches. A lot of times, the actual email address will be a long, complicated and unrelated name. For example, if you receive an email from a popular retailer that claims you owe money or have an unpaid bill, but it’s not familiar to you, it’s likely a phishing scam. The best way to verify is to contact the company on your own by telephone, using a number you find on your own or from information you already have. Never call numbers listed in a suspicious email or click on any links or open any document attached to a suspicious email.
  • Spam: Also known as “junk mail,” spam is unwanted email. If you receive multiple emails a week from retailers that you didn’t sign up for, it’s best to mark them as “spam” and delete. Don’t worry about finding an “unsubscribe” button, as that can be a way for scammers to know your email address is active.
  • Pop-ups: Be very suspicious of "pop-ups," especially those that say your computer has a problem and asks you to click on a link or call a number. If you believe you have a problem with your computer, seek help from a local, reputable vendor.

Create a secure password.

  • For your personal computer, laptop and various accounts (especially your online banking account), create a password that’s easy for you to remember, but difficult for others to guess. Pet names and children’s birthdates are not recommended. You’ll want to create a password with letters, symbols and numbers, for example: Staysafe2020!
  • Use different passwords for different accounts.
  • For your smartphone or device, the latest technology comes with higher security measures than ever before. Depending on your device, you may have the ability to unlock it with your face or thumbprint – which is very difficult for a scammer to replicate. If you have an older device, you can secure it by creating a number password or a pattern password, depending on what kind of phone you use.
  • Ask your phone provider what to do if your phone is ever stolen. Most smartphones have a “kill-switch” that can be turned on so that the thief cannot access personal information on your phone, but you need to set this up in advance.


If you’re out-and-about with your smartphone, remember: Connecting to the Internet via a public Wi-Fi is not considered secure, even if that Wi-Fi comes with a password. Use caution when using your smartphone on public Wi-Fi, for mobile banking.


If you use a webcam on your personal computer or laptop to talk to your kids and grandkids, it’s a good idea to block the camera when you’re not using it. Cover the camera with something that can't be seen through. This helps prevent hackers from accessing your camera remotely and seeing inside your home.

Ask for help

It’s OK to admit if you’re not tech savvy. Your kids or grandkids likely use a smartphone and/or computer daily and could be a big help teaching you how to navigate the Internet and understand what you can see online.

If you believe you may be a victim of cyber fraud, make sure to contact your bank and local law enforcement as soon as possible.

Schedule a Money Safety for Seniors Workshop.

Learn how to detect, protect against and report the financial exploitation of seniors. Old National offers this course to community groups at no cost.

Donna is a Senior Loss Prevention Analyst, CFE and part of the Fraud Prevention and Investigations Department at Old National. This group is responsible for investigating and responding to bank-related fraud situations, as well as training and educating associates and clients about fraud.

This content is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice or indicate the suitability of any product or service for your unique circumstances. You are encouraged to consult with a qualified legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professional based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.