Be wary of sharing information online

Terrace, B.C. writer doesn't even do online banking

A recent study from UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) suggests that seniors’ brains are more vulnerable to being scammed, reports Good Times magazine in its February, 2013 issue, “and another study from the University of Iowa offers a reason: the part of the brain that controls a person’s level of doubt and skepticism (the ventromedial prefrontal cortex) becomes damaged with age, leaving us more vulnerable to persuasion. That makes it harder for older people to trust their instincts when it comes to misleading advertising or people trying to defraud them.”

Allowing anyone to take remote control of your computer is a dicey thing to do. Be cautious. Twice in recent years I have allowed a trustworthy, qualified person to take over my computer to help me. The first time, I had bought a replacement Lexmark printer from Mississauga and knew trying to program it myself would take me hours, lead to frustration, and might eventually require qualified help to unsnarl my mess to get things right.

Lexmark’s start-up service was free, and took little time, In addition, by email, we arranged an appointment convenient to both of us. When the appointed day and time came, Lexmark phoned me. I was spared punching of numbers and an interminable wait.

The second time, I wished to download an extra program into my Mac computer. Again I sought proper help before I messed things up. I phoned the Mac dealer in Smithers and they, too, unerringly installed the program.

I willingly paid the dealer their prevailing service rate because of the time installation took, but that was an economical deal considering that I didn’t have to ship my computer to Smithers by bus or deliver it by car. In either instance I would have been without my computer for several days, compounded by the risk of damage during transfer.

But with both companies, I sought the initial contact; no stranger phoned or emailed out of the blue suggesting I needed their services for some perhaps imaginary problem. I phoned a legitimate business phone number with a traceable physical address who I was confident employed only qualified techs. As the registered representative of my equipment’s manufacturer, they had every incentive to treat me responsibly.

I don’t do on-line banking. If I did, I would be extra careful about relinquishing remote control of my computer to anyone, certainly a stranger. As it is, to transfer money I must present myself in person at the bank wicket. My bank and its staff know me well. They can identify me without a passbook or other evidence.

Three years ago, though, when I arranged to adopt a dog from the Peace River North SPCA, they emailed me on a Saturday morning to say my dog was ready to go, his Tuesday flight on Air Canada from Fort St. John to Terrace was booked, all they lacked was my money to pay for his flight, SPCA boarding costs, and the vet’s neutering fee.

My bank wasn’t open Saturdays and I’ve never had a credit card, so those methods of payment were unavailable to me. But transfer by Western Union proved convenient for both of us. The Western Union in Fort St. John was within a block of the home of the SPCA manager; I sent the money to her in her name. In Terrace, Safeway is a Western Union agent.

My daughter looked after things at Safeway for me as part of her grocery shopping trip but was quizzed by the service desk clerk to make sure I wasn’t falling prey to a Nigeria scam.

Emails from strangers I delete without opening. And I don’t answer phone calls from Unknown Caller, calls with no I.D., or phone numbers I don’t recognize.

I may be a senior but I maintain a youthful skepticism.



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