The internet can be an amazing tool. When you’re faced with the changes brought about by living with dementia, it can literally open up the door to renewed independence. You can shop, socialise, eat out, exercise, watch TV and read – all from a handily accessible screen within the comfort of your own home. Great, right?
However, alongside these technological advancements have come new risks. Avoiding the potential pitfalls can prove a challenge for people living with dementia - where changes in memory function and comprehension play an increased role in disrupting measured decision making. Enjoying life online safely is possible, as long as you have the right protective measures in place. Here we’re going to explore some of the signs to look out for and some great tips for continuing to use the internet safely.
What are the risks of being online?
Online fraudsters have become increasingly innovative in their attempts to con money from their targets. Barely a week goes by without a new scam being uncovered in the news. Sadly, millions fall victim to these cons each year in the UK – even confident and regular internet users. Knowing what to look for is the best way to stay safe online and to protect your loved ones from harm.
When should alarm bells ring?
We have all become used to sharing significant amounts of personal information online. From online banking, to purchases, to social media – it’s all out there. Our lives are now lived in the public domain. While this can offer a number of great freedoms and benefits, here are some instances where scammers might pose a risk.
Email scams are among the most common. They often appear as if they’re legitimate requests for information from your bank or other official body. Check the email address, check for spelling mistakes, errors in syntax or grammar – these can all indicate a scam email.
Computer viruses are programs that scan personal devices for information, which can then be used by hackers to access bank accounts and more. You should never be asked to share personal information, online or on the phone – especially passwords and bank details.
On occasion, fraudsters may attempt to befriend you through social channels. After gaining your trust, requests for financial help begin. This can be especially hard to spot and avoid - as by nature we tend to want to help our friends. If in doubt check with a long-standing friend, loved one, or speak to our Wayfinding Team.
A few golden rules to staying safe online
While it’s important to remain vigilant to the threats posed by living an online life, it shouldn’t detract from the overall benefits that the internet can offer people living with dementia. Spotting a potential scam early is the best way to protect yourself, but there are some other golden rules to stick to.
You can never be too cautious. If you’re unsure, trust your instinct. Read once and check twice.
Never share your passwords, bank details or other personal information. Even if the source seems genuine. You can double check the request with your bank directly, or other official body.
When making purchases online, double check the authenticity of the company before buying. Online checkers like Trust Pilot can confirm legitimacy.
Where possible, make purchases using a major credit card, as these transactions are largely insured.
Make sure you have antivirus software installed on all your devices to protect from Malware. Norton and Windows Defender are popular options (Windows Defender comes pre-installed on most Windows systems with Windows 7 or later, and can be activated in Settings)
Last, but by no means least, never feel embarrassed about asking for advice - or for refusing to give away your personal information. Any genuine request will understand that there are measures we all need to follow to ensure our safety online.
The Wayfinding Team at Dementia Support are available to answer any questions you might have about personal security online – for yourself, or a loved one. We’re here to support you on every step of your dementia journey.