Summer and online shopping can be easy – and safe – for everyone, especially seniors.
Following the unexpected years of the pandemic, there has been a seismic shift in consumer adoption of technology to purchase products and services. There has also been a growing acceptance of the technology by older consumers who have been forced to embrace an online existence as access to the outside world around them has rapidly closed.
Today’s aging community is increasingly familiar and comfortable with technology.
Consumers continue to embrace e-commerce, spending $871.78 billion in 2021 on online transactions, a growth of more than 14% from the previous year. The pandemic has also served to boost those dollars, especially among seniors who have recognized the ease, convenience and safety of home shopping.
A significant overall force in the marketplace, the “purchasing power potential” of seniors, in general, has increased over the past decade. In 2018, consumers 50 and older spent $7.6 trillion, or 56% of total spending in the United States.
For seniors, the significant shift from traditional brick-and-mortar stores to online retail continues to move forward. The 65+ community jumped in and today wields ever-increasing online retail power.
In 2020, many of those 65 and older averaged $187 in online purchases per month. It’s also clear that the online shopping habits that began during COVID-19 aren’t going to disappear anytime soon in the near or distant future.
Unfortunately, just as online spending has increased, fraudsters have the opportunity to create new tactics to defraud large dollars from unsuspecting online users. All consumers need to have the right tools to ensure they can feel confident when engaging in online retail.
In particular, older people will benefit from clear information on how to shop online safely.
Solutions for seniors to get started in e-commerce with tips for staying safe and additional resources
Seven tips for shopping online safely:
1) Always use a trusted “store” online for your purchases and beware of fake online shopping sites that often reside on social media sites and can offer tempting prices.
Beware of fake online shopping sites and discover all unknown stores with the Better Business Bureau. Consider trusted online stores like Amazon, which offer an A-to-z guarantee for items purchased on their site, which can help resolve issues with third-party vendors.
2) It is best to use a credit card for your purchases.
If you purchase an item with your credit card, you can always dispute this charge. Federal law limits liability to $50 if there’s an unauthorized charge to your account, and if you report it to your credit card company as soon as you discover it, they’ll often remove it entirely.
3) Make sure you are on a secure site when entering financial information during your purchase transactions.
Always make sure you are on a secure site before entering financial or other sensitive information. Look for the “http” address bar to change to “https” when asked to enter financial information, such as a credit card number. This indicates that it will be transmitted securely.
4) Protect your privacy and security.
Enable privacy settings, “cookie” choices and clear your history regularly to avoid unwanted marketing from companies.
5) Beware of online “phishing scams” that may target seniors.
Scammers use emails or text messages that appear to be from a company you know or trust, such as your bank, credit card company, or online store. Phishing emails ask for your personal information, such as a login or social security number to verify your account, or may ask you to update your credit card payment. Then they use this information to steal your personal and financial information.
To avoid a phishing scam, check the email address carefully to see if it is from the company (the email address is often incorrect or deviates by a letter or two). Some companies have implemented email verification technology to help identify legitimate emails. For example, if customers see the “Smile” logo next to emails from an @amazon.com sender, this would indicate that the email is from Amazon and not a scammer.
Click here to see if your email provider supports this technology. A dose of healthy skepticism is in order if you receive unsolicited emails asking for your personal and/or financial information.
6) Keep this adage in mind: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Beware of unsolicited emails and special offers asking you to “click here”. They can lead you to illegitimate sellers or scams.
7) Report any scams or frauds you come across online.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC): To report a fraud, scam or problem with a company:
For more information on online shopping security, check out these helpful websites:
Debra Berlyn is executive director of The Project to Get Older Adults onLine (GOAL), and she is also president of Consumer Policy Solutions. She has represented AARP on telecommunications issues and the transition to digital television and has worked closely with national aging organizations on several Internet-related issues, including online security and privacy issues. She is Vice Chair of the Consumer Advisory Committee of the Federal Communications Commission and sits on the Board of Directors of the National Consumers League and is a Board Member and Senior Fellow of the Future of Privacy Forum. This room is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.
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