Online shopping had already become a staple option in the retail market, but the past couple of years have seen an unlikely group take to online shopping: senior adults. While seniors were once seen as a technology-adverse generation, more and more adults over 65 are embracing eCommerce as the newest and best way to shop for everything from gifts for grandkids to adaptive clothing for women. Here’s what you need to know about older adults and their online shopping habits:
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Are Older Adults Online Shopping?
For a long time, a certain dichotomy held true in eCommerce: younger, more technology savvy generations embraced online shopping, while older generations kept shopping at their trusty stores in person. However, the pandemic propelled a huge shift to online shopping for all generations, including older adults. In 2020, Americans 65 and older purchased nearly $187 of product per month online, up 60 percent from 2019.
Many different factors combined to create this trend of online shopping among older adults. For one, many of them were concerned about being exposed to the virus, especially before the vaccine was released, which motivated them to switch to shopping online. The pandemic also made travel to see family much more difficult, which spurred seniors to master technology such as text messages, video calls and internet browsing. Activities that once seemed too difficult to bother with — such as sending a grandchild a gift via an online store — suddenly became essential to staying connected with other people.
Now that they’re used to it, many seniors have come to depend on the convenience and immediacy of online shopping. Shopping in person often feels more like a hassle than anything else. They’ve also realized that many specialty products that cater to them, such as men’s adaptive clothing, may only be available through online retailers — especially if they live in a smaller town or city that doesn’t have a big enough population to support stores dedicated to seniors.
How to Keep Older Adults Safe While Online Shopping
While online shopping may seem magical to the recently initiated, it does pose different dangers from in-person shopping, hazards that seniors may not be aware of. Here are seven tips that elderly adults should follow to keep themselves safe while shopping online:
Create Secure Passwords.
Creating unique, secure passwords for each account greatly reduces your chances of being hacked. If you have trouble coming up with strong passwords on your own, there are password generators to do that for you. You should also store your passwords in a secure password manager system so that you don’t have to memorize them all.
Have Several Email Accounts.
It’s usually a good idea to have a separate email account for your banking, medical correspondence and other sensitive matters. Having a dedicated email for shopping will confine all your junk email to one list and protect your main account from being hacked. Some people even go so far as to use a fake email for each purchase, but this can make it hard to track your order or to follow up with customer service if your box of elastic waist pants for men goes missing.
Use Multi-Factor Authentication.
Multi-factor authentication requires more than just an email and password for login. Usually it involves sending a code to the mobile device number or the secondary email that you have on file for the account, and sometimes it sends it to a third-party app as well. Enable multi-factor authentication for all of your important accounts, such as banking and medical, in order to further reduce your chances of being hacked.
Connect To Trusted Networks.
Using public Wi-Fi may save you on cell phone roaming charges, but it can also make you vulnerable to hackers. Only connect to trusted networks that are password protected and never conduct banking and other sensitive transactions over a public network. For additional protection, use a private browser to further shield your web activity from prying eyes (and internet companies).
Consider A VPN Service.
If you travel a lot or otherwise need to connect to public Wi-Fi often, then consider investing in a VPN service. VPNs route your web traffic through an encrypted connection to protect your activity from cyber criminals. It does have some limitations. For example, many banks won’t allow you to log in to their websites when connecting through a VPN. In these situations, you’ll need to switch to cellular networks instead. But for most other situations, having a VPN is a great internet safety tool.
Know the Signs of Scams.
Unfortunately, older adults are more vulnerable to scams, and that includes cyber crime. Educate yourself about the warning signs of scams and cons, such as phishing emails, telemarketing scams and phony sweepstakes contests. Never download attachments from strange emails and never send money to someone who you don’t know personally. If you get notifications from your bank or hospital, go to their website directly rather than clicking links in the email.
Practice Money-Saving Habits.
Many older adults are on some kind of limited income — especially if they are already retired — and it’s all too easy to spend more money than you meant to when online shopping. Practice good spending habits, such as setting a budget and sticking to it, and comparison shopping to ensure that you are getting the best price possible. We also recommend keeping your savings account separate from your spending account so that you can’t accidentally overdraw your balance.
Online shopping is incredibly convenient for older adults, but it does pose some risks when it comes to scamming and hacking. If you are one of the many older adults who are enjoying the benefits of online shopping, make sure to take steps to protect yourself, your purchases and your finances as you browse online.