Teach your grandparents about email scams

By Tabitha Swanson
[associate culture editor]

In a flurry, my grandmother came to me to say that “we can’t drink orange juice while we eat seafood anymore!” She then showed me what was obviously a chain email. It said that having vitamin C in the body while eating seafood will likely result in a stroke. While I didn’t believe it when I read it, I figured I would look it up. As I perused around the internet, I found that it was a compilation of misinformation. When I approached my grandmother, she thought I was being silly because it was sent by one of her friends. I explained to her that this is how chain letters get passed along – because people keep sending them to each other.

I’m sure all of us have gotten those letters saying, “If you send this to five friends in five minutes, you’ll have good luck for the rest of your life,” or, “I used THIS to make THAT better in bed. Click on the link below to find out how.” Chain mail like this is blatant and easy to spot, even for people who aren’t internet savvy. But what about the mail that could be real, where the content it contains is semi-believable. How does the less web-inclined portion of our population protect themselves?

Some chain mail is harmless. But, a lot of them can contain viruses that can harm a person’s computer, leaving the user helpless. People who create chain mail do it for a number of reasons, and none of them are with good intent. What kind of a person skews health care warnings and makes it into a chain letter? And what would they think if they knew that old people were passing it around from computer to computer with intentions of saving each other’s lives. This person obviously had too much time on their hands.

Online, it can be hard to recognize what is real and fake. My grandparents were raised in a generation where you could trust more. They didn’t grow up with the same suspicion and wary eye that we naturally use when processing information. We as a generation have to try and protect them from being scammed and educate them on how the internet works. It’s interesting because a lot of them have been thrown into this world that is hard for them to learn and understand, while for us it’s often second nature.

It can be a hard concept to grasp, but there are dangers in this plugged-in world. Where things are real but, at the same time, they aren’t tangible. For people who haven’t grown up in this type of environment, it can be hard to know what is credible and what isn’t. Heck, even for people who have grown up with the internet, it’s hard.

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