Keeping Your Aging Parents Safe from Internet Predators: 3 Tips for Savvy, Safe Sales Transactions

Chances are you’ve spoken to your children about the subject of “stranger danger” and you continue to do so. They know to avoid strangers in real life as well as on the web and wouldn’t think about opening the front door to someone they didn’t know.

But what about your mom and dad? Do they know the most basic rules of keeping themselves safe from predators who troll the internet looking for their next targets? With more and more of the elderly population actively navigating their Smartphones and tablets and learning to navigate the sales and bidding sites and apps easily found on their devices, it’s easy to assume that Mom and Dad also know how to keep themselves safe. However, if your responsibilities include the wellbeing of your aging parents in addition to that of your own family, safe in-person sales transactions is a subject I’d urge you to find time to discuss.

Here are 3 tips for keeping your internet-friendly, elderly parents safe from harm by cyber criminals:

1. Remind them to never, ever discuss personal information such as their address, birthdays, the names and locations of relatives, daily schedules, etc. with sellers/buyers. It’s a known fact that the elderly are often socially isolated and in need of more companionship. It’s not difficult to imagine a criminal optimizing on this fact.
2. Advise them not to advertise merchandise as being available for pickup from their home. Sure, most buyers are harmless, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. If Mom and Dad have items needing to be sold, tell them you’ll be happy to handle it for them. If you live in another state, tell them to keep a list, and you’ll help them the next time you’re in town—then follow through with that promise.
3. For those active elders who enjoy the hunt of a bargain, remind them that ALL in-person transactions should be made INSIDE the local police station and not in a nearby public parking lot. Period. Municipalities encourage these meetings and typically make their lobbies available to the public for this reason. If a seller or buyer refuses to meet in a mutually-convenient police station, end the transaction right there.

We can’t help but worry about the safety of those we love. Knowing that your elderly parents can keep themselves safe from harm may provide a little relief in your busy life.

Please reach out to me if I may be of help to you and your family in this or any other discourse.

All the best,

Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.

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