Use of SocNets by Older Users Skyrockets; Are You Oversharing?

January 21, 2011

US Consumers of all ages continue to increase adoption of social networking sites, but over the last two years it’s been the boomers that have seen the greatest upsurge in use according to new data from the Pew Research Center.

Young boomers (45-54yr-olds) more than doubled their adoption rate over in the last two years from 20% to 50%, and older boomers (55-64yr-olds) quadrupled from 9% to 43%. Even the oldest users (74+) saw a quadrupling of social networking usage.

Little Internet safety material has been targeted towards seniors

With the dramatic rise in social networking by segments of the population that have received only limited internet safety education, the over 45 crowd makes a prime target for punks, crooks and organized crime rings to leverage – particularly since this group as a whole sits on vast financial assets.

Four key risks for seniors to watch out for when using social networks include:

  1. Exposing personal information – this goes beyond considering the information you are sharing to include ensuring your privacy protections are in place. For many, figuring out the safety settings seems daunting and if you fall into this category ask someone more confident for help. Consider carefully how public you want your site to be and then share accordingly.Most sites encourage you to reveal information about yourself by creating an extensive profile, and adding your own photos and text, but you’ll stay safer if you limit the information you place in your profile or anywhere that can be accessed by the public.

    Don’t trade personal information for “freebies.” Online freebies come in two forms: The free games, free offers, and ‘great deals’. Just as in the physical world, if these types of offers sound too good to be true, they probably are. Not only will these collect and sell your personal information, these ‘deals’, and ‘free’ applications are usually riddled with spyware, viruses or other malicious software.

  2. Unsolicited contact and ‘Friend’ requests – if you don’t know the person that wants to befriend you, consider if the information you’re sharing is something you want this person to know if they turn out to be a criminal. McAfee’s 2011 threat report indicates we will see an increase in scams and crimes based on misplaced trust, social engineering, and “friendly fire” where threats appear to come from your friends but in fact are sent by criminals who have hijacked or spoofed the accounts of people you know.
  3. Links – whether the links come in email or as comments on your social site, don’t click! If you really want to the information claimed to be behind the link, search for it yourself. Stay in the driver’s seat by getting to the site independently.  Use a search engine and type in the website name, and then use the link from your search engine to go to the correct site.This is the ONLY way to guarantee you land on the legitimate site. If you use the link (or phone number) in an email, IM, ad on a website/blog site/forum/social network/etc., where you land (or who you talk to) is their choice, not yours. The website the link takes you to may be a very convincing copy, and may cause serious harm to your computer and your information privacy.
  4. Quizzes, surveys, and ‘research’ – are designed for one purpose; to collect information. The use of this information may be for entirely legitimate purposes, or entirely criminal purposes. Think at least twice before participating. You don’t get to see the terms and conditions applied to the use of your information, and they will likely sell whatever they learn to interested parties. Even the most innocuous ‘survey’s learn far more than you imagine, and they may give you malicious software or download tracking cookies. Err on the side of caution and skip these entirely.

To further help internet users over 40, I coauthored the book Using the Internet Safely for Seniors for Dummies. It is the guide you need to steer safely through the hazards so you can shop, visit, invest, explore, pay bills, and do dozens of other things online — more securely. Learn to protect yourself from online predators, create strong passwords, find reliable information, spot e-mail and phishing scams, and much more.



Readeo – a Cool Grandparent Tool Online

September 11, 2010

Sunday is Grandparents day. As you know, I rarely recommend a product or service, so something has to really dazzle me, and show the power for good that the internet represents, for it to happen.

Readeo exceeded that bar. The service’s ability to connect parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc through reading books together and face to face interaction over the internet is just phenomenal. I wish it was there when my kids were small.

This cool service allows you to stay in touch with kids in such a positive and connected way it’s a must for anyone who struggles to maintain a relationship with a child from a distance.

And I’m far from the only person to feel this way about the service; read what others are saying.

When I told Readeo’s Founder and CEO, Coby Neuenschwander, that I wanted to blog about the service, he made YOU an offer you can’t refuse:

Use the checkout code ilookbothways and Readeo will give any new user one month FREE

If you still aren’t sure, consider this: Readeo is running a grandparent challenge – any grandparent who tries their service with a grandchild and doesn’t like it (technology errors notwithstanding since we can’t control their internet speed or hardware) will receive $100.

In their own words, here’s the philosophy and functionality behind Readeo:

Many of us spend a lot of time away from children we love. As a result…, we set out to create a special experience that you can have with a special child from anywhere.

Through our patent-pending product, you can share story time with a child from anywhere as long as you both have high speed Internet and a webcam. We call it BookChatting and it has made the distance seem much shorter when we’re away. You might still miss… [your child/grandchild].. but you will hear “can we read another one dad, mom, or grandma, or grandpa, or uncle, or friend, or whoever you are?” and it will be the best thing you do all day—maybe all week.

While people use BookChat to connect with children from a distance, many people also use our site to discover books and read with children when they’re together as well. We have been lucky to have some of the best children’s book publishers believe in us and in our vision of keeping families connected. We add books to our site frequently and Jenny Brown, our editor and former children’s book reviews editor for Publisher’s Weekly, hand picks each book on the site.

Their selection of books to share is strong and growing, and the way Readeo works makes it far better than trying to accomplish the same, or even similar interaction over Skype

Do yourself, your child, or your parents a favor, try it. Give it to celebrate Grandparents Day.

[Note: I do not accept funding from this, or any company, for this website. My views and recommendations are entirely my own.]


Common Safety Mistakes and Abuses on Twitter

October 29, 2009

The world of Twitter is experiencing an unprecedented growth rate according Nielsen Online in their report The Fastest Growing Social Sites. Twitter reached more than 13 million people in the U.S. during the month of April, – and that doesn’t count use through clients like TweetDeck or Seesmic Desktop.

Like other social media tools, Twitter is a fun and rich medium for communication but Twitter adds an even more accelerated element of immediacy. When confined to 140 characters, users primarily jot quick notes about what they’re doing or point to an interesting URL. Whether your goal is to keep friends and family updated, expand your footprint in the blogosphere, meet new and interesting people, promote yourself or your brand, educate, conduct research, sell, or exploit others, the opportunities on Twitter are endless.

uniquevisitorstwitterTwitter users generally aren’t teens, in fact, the median age of tweeters is 31. Given this generally more experienced age group, it is interesting to note that many Twitter using adults make the same safety mistakes that they censure teens for online:

  1. Failure to consider what information they share: what is actually being shared; the value of information being shared; and making appropriate decisions about whether information should be shared
  2. Failure to identify trustworthiness or lack of trustworthiness – of the people, Web sites, content, and businesses they interact with
  3. Failure to understand predatory behavior and motives in the broadest sense, including bullies, stalkers, scammers, thieves, and sexual predators

Common Safety Mistakes

Information shared on Twitter or any other online site collects over time. If you only share public information, or you only allow close friends and family to follow you, go for it. However, if you share personal information more broadly, your risks increase with each contribution.

Consider the entire pool of information available about you online, not simply what is shared in a single comment. By the time you include public government records, phone directory listings, workplace bios, club/team/church information, charitable donations, your friends blogs, and your own contributions you may be surprised how quickly someone can learn enough to steal your identity, embarrass you, or threaten you, your family or your possessions.

  1. Using full names – there are clear reasons for using your full name when tweeting if your aim is to build your social capital and credibility, but if your goal is simply to socialize, skip the name and use an alias.
  2. Location tweeting – many tweeters share too much information about where they live and the places they frequent. If you don’t want someone showing up on your doorstep, your office, or anywhere else uninvited, consider reducing your ‘findability-factor’.
  3. Exposing family members – naming spouses, kids etc, or giving their locations – “picking up Rachel from Carl Sandburg” increases their risks. You don’t want to provide information that could help someone approach them with a convincing story
  4. Vacation tweeting – announcing that you’re headed out on vacation is essentially posting a sign saying “my home will be empty, please rob me”, or “my family will be home without me”. If you want to tweet about vacations, do it after you’re home, but consider the next point…
  5. Inferred information – often what you say carries a great deal of additional information. For example, a comment that says you just registered on a dating site lets the reader assume you’re single and looking to meet people. Saying you’re headed to Australia for vacation infers information about your financial status, the opportunity to check your mailbox for interesting bills, credit card offers, etc. – as well as the vacancy of your home.
  6. Over sharing – Twitter is for socializing, not for sharing every detail of your life.
  7. Emotional exposure – sharing your emotions with people you don’t know well is a significant risk factor. If you’re sad they have the opportunity to comfort you, if you’re happy, they’ll reach out to share that, and so on. One of the quickest ways for a criminal to gain your trust is to provide emotional support.
  8. Misplaced trust – forwarding links, particularly shortened links, is a key activity in Twitter, but how do you know if those links are safe or taking you to malicious sites? Consumer Reports just highlighted the issues with clicking on tweeted URL’s in their article  Tweet URLs may be tiny, but they can also be dangerous.

How crooks and creeps use Twitter

Most Twitter users are great people having a good time, some aren’t. Crooks and creeps find a myriad of opportunities on Twitter, just as they do through other online communication sites. Here are a few of the more common issues:

  1. Offensive content – you receive an invitation from a ‘woman’ (who knows?) who started who sent him an extremely explicit image of herself along with an invitation for more.
  2. Scams – it’s a new medium for the same kind of scams that run through emails, IM’s, and blog comments. Usually including links to infected sites
  3. Harvesting information – particularly contact info to resell and reuse for other exploits via spam, phone, snail mail etc.
  4. Stalking – this may be by ex’s or people you don’t know who begin to obsess about you and includes showing up at your home, workplace, kids school, church, events, clubs, etc.
  5. Reputational attacks – collecting information for offline attacks, or leveraging your twitter network to smear you. This may come from someone with a grudge against you in particular, or from trolls just wanting to be mean. A troll is someone who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community.
  6. ID theft – criminals trawl for information that helps them commit ID theft. This may be by gleaning information to impersonate a trusted resource, or by collecting enough profile pieces to collect the information needed to steal your ID.

Want to learn more?

  • Watch Consumerman Herb Weisbaum’s TV segment where he talk’s about Twitter risks with Linda and Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna.
  • Gain some skills, check out’s Top 10 Twitter Tips for Beginners

Think through what you are sharing and who you are sharing with before you tweet, and you’ll stay safer while having fun.


Join the Podcast: A Safer Internet With Linda Criddle

October 19, 2009

saferdates1Upcoming Radio/Podcast Show: 10/27/2009 4:00 PM (Pacific Time)

Call-in Number: (718) 766-4680

Join Safer Dates as we celebrate “National Cyber Security Awareness Month” by interviewing Linda Criddle, president of the Safe Internet Alliance, an organization devoted to promoting a safe Internet and better education to protect all users, especially children, teens and the elderly, from Internet corruption, crime, and abuse by driving initiatives through industry, education, government, and non-profit entities.

Linda is also the founder and President of LOOKBOTHWAYS, Inc., a company that develops internet safety technologies and products while providing product design, safety reviews, and other consulting services to leading technology companies, regulatory bodies, and law enforcement, as well as offering practical assistance to consumers navigating the online world through a consumer internet safety site,

Linda collaborates with local, state, national and international law enforcement agencies, teaching how to understand and track predators online. She works with government organizations in the U.S. and around the world to advise on, and prepare, internet safety regulations and legislation. In addition, Linda is an author of the award-winning consumer-oriented books, “Look Both Ways: Help Protect Your Family on the Internet,” and “Using the Internet Safely for Seniors For Dummies.” She has also written “Internet Safety for Educators”, a distance-learning course offered through Universities.

Our interview will explore tools to empower you to have a safer internet experience. The future of the internet is up to all of us. So let us join together and help promote an internet ethic of respect and accountability online.

Hope you can join us,


As Online Dating Grows, So do Scams

October 18, 2009

Online dating can claim some remarkable results:

  • There are now about 1,400 online dating sites in North America.
  • In 2007 one in eight married couples met first online, that number continues to increase.
  • 40% of the US single population now uses online dating sites, roughly equal to 40 million people, according to,
  • grows by 60,000 new members daily.
  • Americans who search for love online spend over 2 hours a night talking to prospective dates
  • Over $500 million dollars have been spent so far this year on internet dating sites according to Iovation.
  • Forrester Research reports that online dating is now the third largest producer of revenue out of all paid content sites, generating $957 million in 2008; a figure the firm predicts will grow 10 percent by 2013.

That’s a lot of people representing a lot of money.

When done with caution, online dating can be safer than meeting people in the “real” world because you have more time to get to know someone before meeting him or her in person. I personally know many happy couples who would never have met their spouses had it not been for online dating sites.

But dating online requires you take steps to protect yourself…

Predators follow their prey

As in any environment, abusers, criminals and predators follow wherever potential victims can be found, and with the number of online daters soaring, it should come as no surprise that crooks from around the world are hard on dater’s heels.

Last month Google found that search terms like “online dating” and “free dating” are getting the most hits from fraudsters in African countries, and police forces around the world are bracing for an explosion in scams as East African countries move from dialup to broadband speeds in June 2010 allowing African scammers to rival counterparts in former soviet block western countries.

Common progression in a dating scam

  1. The scammer posts an attractive photo (stolen) and fake profile on a dating website.
  2. Scammer sends a mass message to members with canned text.
  3. If the scammer gets a reply, they begin showing interest in the victim and ask if the victim wants to know more about the scammer.
  4. At some point the scammer will share their email address in an attempt to get the victim out of the monitored dating environment and away from any safeguards that help protect the victim’s identity. They may want to converse via IM, phone calls, even webcams. They may suggest sexually explicit interactions via web cam or compromising photos of the victim for resale and/or blackmail later.
  5. Conversations progress until the scammer believes they have secured the victim’s trust and emotions, and then begin introducing a story about how they are having difficulties and need your help in some way. The story will be customized to further gain sympathy and affection from the victim.
  • At some point the scammer will ask for money (sent as cash, money orders, merchandise, or currency exchange through a service like Western Union). Or suggest you pay for a plane ticket so you can meet, or ask you to accept shipment of items to forward to someone else, or to cash a check for them and place the money in a specific account (you’ll be stuck when the check bounces and you have to cover the cost).
  • As long as the victim continues to believe, the scammer will keep asking for money. In some cases victims loose tens of thousands of dollars.

Learn more about romance scams at

Not all dating are equal when it comes to protecting your safety.

The first rule of thumb is to trust your instincts when interacting with a potential date. Select your online dating service carefully. Look for an established, popular site with plenty of members and a philosophy that matches your own.

Some sites do extensive background screening, have active moderation teams watching for scams, and strict privacy measures to help protect you, others have no such safeguards in place. I can’t recommend a site that offers you no protection. With 1,400 online dating sites to choose from, select what works for you.
Follow these safety tips:

  1. Maintain anonymity to protect your identity. Don’t include your full name, phone number, where you work, or detailed location information in your profile or during early communications with potential dates. Stop communicating with anyone who presses you for this type of information.
  2. Use the e-mail system provided by the dating service rather than your own e-mail address to maintain your privacy.
  3. Be smart about choosing profile pictures. Make sure your photos reflect what you want to say about yourself. Provocative pictures may attract the wrong people. Make sure that your images do not contain identifying information such as nearby landmarks or a T-shirt with your school or company logo.
  4. Check to see if a potential date has a good reputation among other daters on the service.
  5. Be realistic. Read the profiles of others with skepticism. As you correspond or talk on the phone, ask questions, seek direct answers, and note any inconsistencies. Look for danger signs such as a display of anger, an attempt to control you, disrespectful comments, or any physically threatening or otherwise unwelcome behavior.
  6. If a person becomes abusive, report it and block that person from contacting you again using the dating site settings.
  7. When you decide to meet, create a safe environment. Keep first dates short, and agree to meet in a public place during a busy time of day, Make sure somebody knows where you’re going. If your date doesn’t look like his or her photo, walk away and report that person to the dating service.
  8. If a date asks you for a loan or any financial information, no matter how sad the hard luck story, it is virtually always a scam and you should report it.

With dating scams increasing, you simply can’t afford to date online without knowing how to spot and avoid risks.


Stay Safer – Place a Security Freeze on Your Credit

October 16, 2009

Criminals use stolen ID’s to open new lines of credit. You can thwart their efforts to use your identity by simply freezing your credit. Many states have laws giving you this right, but even where states don’t provide legal mandates, the large credit bureaus provide a voluntary security freeze program.

To determine whether there are any costs associated with placing a security freeze on your credit, and for temporarily lifting that credit freeze when you do seek credit, see State Freeze Requirements and Fees. For example, In Washington state, those who have been victims of ID theft can freeze, and temporarily lift their credit for free. It costs just $10 for anyone else under the age of 65.


Plan ahead when you do want to apply for new credit, as it may take up to 3 days to process your request for a temporary lift of the security freeze. (A freeze limits the credit bureaus from disclosing your credit score to third parties except in those cases where you specifically contact a credit bureau like Equifax and request that they temporarily lift the security freeze.) It may take longer if you have lost the security freeze confirmation number which the credit bureau provided.

Click here to learn more about placing a Security Freeze through Equifax on your credit file.


R U Lost in Text Messaging Lingo?

July 13, 2009

If you feel like you’re floundering in text message short code lingo and can’t tell an LOL from a BFF, you aren’t alone. Fortunately, several online sites can help you translate what your friends and kids are writing if it’s gone over your head.


One translation site I like is Netlingo, which provides a great look-up function for text message short cut codes, and provides a great dictionary with simple explanations on a wide spectrum of other ‘Internet’ words you may not be familiar with – like netlingo, which means internet jargon.

Add a bit of humor to your life by checking out Cingular mobile’s (now part of AT&T) funny TV ad IDK, my BFF Jill that plays with the use of netlingo in family conversations. The scene is a mother scolding her daughter for too much texting and the daughter responding to her using only text lingo.

Oh, and LOL stands for Laugh out Loud (and sometimes Lots of love so consider the context) and BFF is Best Friend Forever…
More l8r.