Americans of all ages are increasingly turning to their devices for everything from online banking to video tutorials, gaming to shopping. This includes older Americans whose use of the internet now goes well beyond connecting with family and friends.  

These varied levels of online engagement have led to a new type of role: the “tech caregiver.” This person may discuss fraud protection with their older parent or cyberbullying with their kids. Often, millennial and Gen-X adults fill this tech caregiver role. You may be a tech caregiver and not even know it.

Tech caregivers assisting older adults in their lives may answer questions and provide support about devices, online activities, email, text messages and more. This support also includes security information and tips to help protect against scams, spam, malware, identity theft and other online threats. While many older Americans are tech savvy, others find some online activities and security measures, like strong password guidance, confusing or intimidating.

Here’s an example we’ve heard recently:

“Recently, my mother got a call from someone pretending to be from a major tech company. He said she had viruses on her laptop. He sent her different links to “prove” he was who he said he was. He convinced her to give him her credit card number to pay for anti-virus software. I couldn’t believe she did this – she’s generally not very trusting of sales people. It was alarming to see this bad guy break down that barrier.”

People of all ages are at risk when it comes to online safety, but users over the age of 50 are frequent targets and victims of cybercrime. The latest FBI report shows Americans over the age of 50 lost more than one billion dollars to scams and cyber criminals in 2018. The top scams included email/text scamsromance scams and ransom scams.

While these are risks we all face, people in a tech caregiver role may be more informed and more comfortable sharing their knowledge to educate and better protect those around them. Reinforcing online safety is important to help everyone guard against bad guys who are crafty and convincing.

At AT&T, we are dedicated to empowering tech caregivers with the tools they need to have conversations about online safety. It can be overwhelming when thinking about how to have a conversation about online privacy and security. But even the easiest, most basic security tips can still have a huge impact on preventing many scams and thefts.

To help start those conversations we have put together guides on how to talk to your loved ones and friends about common scams and the ways to protect themselves. With these guides, talking about online safety can be a positive experience that leaves both the tech caregiver and loved one feeling reassured and empowered.

AT&T supports the Oasis Institute, a non-profit educational organization that promotes healthy aging through lifelong learning, active lifestyles and volunteer engagement.  Their technology literacy and internet safety training videos and classes are designed for an older audience and can serve as a helpful resource in these discussions.