Digital technology is playing a growing role in the lives of older people. It’s important for anyone embracing the opportunities available online to adopt safe behaviours along the way. We’ve explained some of the simple things people can do to keep their online experience safer and more enjoyable.


‘Silver surfers’ are the fastest-growing group of online users. Generally any new internet users is more likely to encounter online risks and sadly we know that older people are more susceptible to being defrauded out of large sums of money, so it’s important they know how to protect themselves online.


Technology connects us to loved ones, helps us access information and means you can purchase goods and services from the comfort of your own home. There are a few tips to think about before you get going.

  1. Do a stocktake: Assess how many devices in your house connect to the internet to understand where the risks are and start to mitigate them.
  2. Assess new technology: Investigate new apps or platforms by checking out T&Cs, reviews before using them.
  3. Secure your virtual house. Use strong passwordsupdate your software and use two- factor authentication where possible.
  4. Share your experience: Talk to your friends and family about the technologies you use and let them know the tips and tricks you use to eliminate risk.
  5. Combat misinformation: Guide people to official information sources like to stop the spread of fake news.
  6. See something, say something: If you see suspicious or criminal activity online, report it. If you don’t know where to report, Netsafe can help.
  7. Practice safe clicking: COVID-19 is being used as a lure so be careful clicking on links, attachments or ads from unknown sources as they might be hiding malware.
  8. Protect your info: Criminals are harvesting personal information. Stop and think carefully about the details you’re disclosing or whether they need to entered online.
  9. Have fun: Explore the different technologies available to help you connect, learn, stay informed and participate in Aotearoa’s new virtual society.
  10. Help others: Share your online safety tips and experiences using #stayconnectedstaysafe to help others or email us.

How to protect for protecting your digital footprint
Your digital footprint is the trail of ‘electronic breadcrumbs’ you leave behind as you use the internet and it’s important to manage it carefully.

  1. Think before you publish anything online. Once information, a Tweet, a status update or a photo is posted online, it’s almost impossible to remove completely – even if it’s later deleted or modified.
  2. When using social networks, avoid using language or pictures that might upset and offend other people or later embarrass you. Take the time to review the Safety Centres and always use the privacy settings available to you. You can read about social media advertising on our website if you want to understand how social media organisations make their money.
  3. Keep your personal information private. Be careful about the types of details you publish about yourself and never share sensitive information such as your age, address or phone number publicly.
  4. Always take disagreements offline where they can be more effectively communicated and resolved.
  5. Don’t post photos of other people or share their information without their permission.

How to stay safe on devices including mobile phones
Smartphones and tablets also need protecting. Netsafe has put some advice together to help you protect your device against digital dangers. Some of the other things you can do include:

  1. Be careful about who you give your mobile number to and respect others privacy by not giving away their details without checking with them first.
  2. Treat your smartphone or device just like your computer – use a pin and install operating system updates as they become available – they often include much needed security patches.
  3. Never reply to an SMS from a number or person you can’t identify (even to unsubscribe).
  4. Do not share your personal, credit card or online account details over the phone unless you made the call and the phone number you rang came from a trusted source. Be wary of SMS messages from unknown sources asking you to update, validate or confirm your personal details including password and account information.
  5. Notify your mobile service provider if your phone is lost or stolen.
  6. Monitor your online usage if you’re on a mobile data plan as not all content viewed on a mobile is “free to browse”. Try to only use WiFE on your device when connected to password-protected hotspots and turn off any auto-connect features.
  7. Make sure you log out of social networking sites and online banking when you’ve finished using them.
  8. Regularly back-up the information, photos and data stored on your device.
  9. Only downloads applications (apps) for your device from trustworthy sources to avoid viruses and malware (malicious software).
  10. Before you upgrade or recycle your device, delete all personal/business information.

How to shop safely
There are so many conveniences to shopping online, but you also need to be careful about who you’re buying from and the information you’re giving out. Check out Netsafe’s Shopping Online Safely advice to help get you on your way. Some of the other important steps to follow include:

  1. Do some research so you know if the asking price is reasonable. Always independently check an offer, scheme or sale before proceeding with it. Check the seller’s description carefully and look at the photos closely. If you’re unclear about any details, ask the seller for more information.
  2. Check the payment and delivery options and make sure you understand them, and any other terms or conditions the seller is stipulating before you commit to buying the item.
  3. Review the seller’s feedback and ratings from previous transactions. This is often a great way to judge if a seller is an honest and reliable trader.
  4. Choose a payment method you feel comfortable using. Never send cash in the mail or use money transfer services (e.g. Western Union) to send payments to people you don’t know.
  5. Be aware of the latest online scams.

How to avoid scams, hoaxes and phishing
People in New Zealand lose millions of dollars each year to scammers. Read about the 11 most common scams reported to Netsafe and follow these tips:

  1. If you you suspect you have received a hoax email, don’t reply to it or open any accompanying attachment – just delete it
  2. Visit trusted websites by typing the internet address (URL) into the browser address bar rather than clicking on a link embedded in an email
  3. Save frequently used links in your favourites or bookmarks bar
  4. Never respond to requests for personal information in an unexpected email or pop-up window. If in doubt, always contact the institution that claims to be the sender of the email or pop-up window for clarification
  5. Use a spam filter to help block unsolicited and unwanted email

Get a quick overview of what to lookout for below:

  1. Phishing scams: Beware of any unsolicited emails from organisations requesting you to update your personal/financial details. Scammers often make their emails look genuine by copying an organisation’s logo, images or even their entire website. Call your service provider if you are unsure of whether something has come from them.
  2. Wire transfer scams: Beware of any sellers requesting you to send funds overseas. This scam involves the seller engaging the buyer offsite (usually via email) and convincing them to send money through an international money transfer service for an item that will never be shipped.
  3. Non-delivery scams: Beware of ads for high value items advertised for a low price – unsuspecting buyers make contact and send funds to the seller but never receive the item.
  4. Buyer fraud scam: Beware of buyers asking you to send the item you are selling overseas. Normally they send a fake invoice from a financial provider to dupe you into thinking they’ve paid.


Netsafe has a variety of online safety tips and information. Whether you’re an older person dating during lockdown, looking for video call options or wanting to find new online activities to try, Netsafe can help with.


If you’re concerned about the immediate safety of you or someone else, please call 111. If you want help or expert incident advice, you can contact us. Our service is free, non-judgemental and available seven days a week.


Follow us on social media and sign up to our newsletter for alerts, news and tips.  
Facebook   Twitter