Every day we trade our personal information for the convenience of shopping, banking, and connecting online. But as our online use increases, so does the risk of scams, identity theft, and hacking. By the end of July 2022 alone, Canadians lost $284.7 million to fraud,  and news coverage shows that older adults are often the ones targeted by cybercriminals.
“Senior scams” bank on the chances that older adults are less likely to know about the latest scams or tactics used to steal personal information. Criminals can target you and your loved ones through the internet, Bluetooth, text messages, online services, and even postal mail by posing as companies or individuals requesting information or money.
There are different degrees of online security — locking down each can help older adults and their loved ones protect their financial health and overall well-being.
“None of us have any idea that our information has ever been compromised, but finding out is key, as we now know the steps we need to take to protect ourselves,” explains Martin Bélanger, National Director of Cybersecurity Solutions at TELUS. For example, online subscriptions for streaming, books, and publications all use (and store) your credit card information, which puts your data at risk.
“A saying in our industry is that it is not a question of if our data will be compromised, but rather when,” he says. So, to be better prepared here are four ways to help you better protect your identity online as shared by TELUS security experts.
1. Proactively change and manage your passwords
“We know we should change our passwords regularly, but do we?” asks Bélanger.
And cybercriminals know this. That’s why security experts recommend changing your online account passwords regularly (like every three months) to help minimize the chances of your accounts being compromised. But memorizing changing passwords can be a headache, and noting them down with pen and paper can also be risky.
“I strongly believe that certain tools can fill in our gaps,” says Bélanger. For example, helpful apps and tools like TELUS Online Security’s Password Manager  can simplify keeping track of your logins. Password managers are like a virtual vault that saves and updates your passwords.
How you can better manage your passwords:
Set a reminder in your calendar to change your passwords regularly.
Don’t use simple passwords like words, phrases, and birthdays which are easy to guess.
2. Be aware of data breaches
When a company makes the evening news because of a data breach, it usually means significant financial costs for them (and headaches for their customers). A data breach is when confidential, protected, or sensitive personal information is exposed to an unauthorized party (like a hacker or the public). This can include your e-mail address, credit card information, or social insurance number (SIN), which can be used to commit fraud or steal your identity.
“Using the internet is like stepping in wet cement. Those footprints can last forever,” explains Leigh Tynan, Director of TELUS Online Security.  “Every time you engage with a business or organization online, you could be leaving them with your personal data. All it takes is for one of these organizations to be breached, and your data is compromised and potentially sold online to hackers and identity thieves. The scariest part is that you don’t know when this has happened.”
What you can do in the event of a data breach:
Keep your eyes peeled for news or emails about data breaches. Companies you interact with typically send an email notification, or you can also call them for support.
If a company you deal with is hacked, promptly reset your password and check your other accounts.
3. Don’t get reeled in by phishing scams
Data breaches and hacks can happen in many different ways, but one of the most common is phishing. Have you ever received a text message or email from a person or company that didn’t feel “right?” Maybe the wording sounded a bit off, there were spelling mistakes, or the logo looked fuzzy — these could be indicators that a nefarious party is trying to impersonate individuals and companies to trick people into sharing personal information (or money).
Recently, one Ontario woman lost $750,000  after being tricked by someone posing as both entrepreneur Elon Musk and as a relative to scam her.
How you can try to spot phishing scams:
Remember that organizations like the government or financial institutions won’t send you links asking for your password or personal information.
Check the full address of email senders (or phone numbers of text messages) to see if the account details are authentic.
4. Monitor your information on the Dark Web
You may have heard about the “Dark Web,” but what exactly is it? The Dark Web is a hidden layer of the internet not accessible by search engines and used by cybercriminals to store stolen information since the average person can’t find it. TELUS Online Security can help you to monitor this hidden layer of the internet for personal information that appears.
“When you think about our day-to-day activities, we set up cameras to see what’s going on outside our homes. If we’re riding a bike, we lock it up when we leave it. And we wouldn’t give our car keys to anyone, nor do we leave a car without, you know, pressing that button twice to make sure it’s locked,” explains Tynan. “Yet I would argue our most valuable possession — our identity — we often forget to protect or, more likely, we don’t know how to protect.”
Keep your personal information out of the shadows:
Remember to be selective about who you give your personal information to and why.
With just a click, TELUS Online Security can run a free online scan to help see if your email has been hacked
Moving forward — securely
Criminals who obtain your personal information and circulate it on the Dark Web can use it to try and gain even more access to other accounts and data, leading to identity theft and financial loss. Experts like Tynan recommend being extra cautious about the information you share online  — especially names, dates, and vacation plans — and staying aware of what data is already out there.
“There is no doubt that cybercriminals are upping their game, and it’s time we up ours, too, to protect against the risks,” says Tynan. “Especially given the fact that we are online now way more than ever.”