The internet has created a world of opportunities for people of all ages, seniors included. It provides many beneficial resources relating to information and knowledge, connectivity and communication, shopping and banking, and entertainment, just to name a few. These conveniences have transformed just about every aspect of how we live, learn, work, and connect with people. However, not all of these changes are advantageous. One of the greatest downfalls to the internet is the predators with ill-intentions lurking on the interwebs, waiting to take advantage of unsuspecting individuals. Among the most targeted victims are senior citizens.
Seniors have spent a lifetime building a nest egg to prepare for retirement. In addition, many have a home that they own outright, excellent credit scores, and a tendency to be more trusting and polite. Years of honest, hard work and admirable qualities sadly make them the ideal target for cyber scams. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), in 2022, there were over 88 thousand individuals over the age of 65 who fell victim to internet crime, resulting in 3.1 billion dollars in losses. These numbers are staggering, but what’s even more alarming is the 84% increase from 2021, indicating that these types of scams are on the rise!
It is our job to equip our loved ones with the knowledge to protect them from being part of the statistics. Here are some tips to allow the seniors in your life to confidently surf the web without fear of falling victim to internet scams.
- Familiarize yourself with the common cyber-crimes targeting seniors. Understanding and recognizing the most common types of cyber-crimes will allow you to more easily navigate any potentially threatening situation.
- Government Imposter Scams– Posing as government agencies, such as the IRS, Social Security Administration, or Medicare office, criminals will demand money for “unpaid taxes” or other “past due bills”. They create a sense of urgency, demanding money and/or personal information immediately, in order to prevent arrest or loss of benefits. Additionally, personal Information can later be used for identity theft.
- Financial Scams– Criminals will attempt to acquire personal information to access your private and secure accounts. Scammers often act under the guise of a legitimate company or agency, including reverse mortgage companies and credit repair companies.
- Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams– Scammers make a phone call to inform an elderly individual that they’ve won a sweepstakes or lottery of some sort. In order to collect their winnings, they request a payment upfront to cover the taxes on their newly found fortune. Needless to say, the money is taken and the individual never receives any type of prize money.
- Romance Scams– Dating websites have gained popularity over the years, not only as a way to find a romantic interest, but also as an avenue for exploitation. Criminals pose as interested romantic partners, preying on older adults’ loneliness to con them out of money and personal information.
While there are many other tactics scammers use to take advantage of the elderly, these are among the most common approaches. It’s important to read through them so you can recognize them when you see them.
- As soon as you recognize a scam, end all communication with the perpetrator.
- Limit the amount of personal information that you share on social media. This information can be used by scammers to better understand and target you. Keep your social media and dating profiles private and be careful about which posts you share publicly.
- Never grant unknown individuals remote access to your computer or devices. Reputable tech support and security companies will not initiate unsolicited contact with you.
- Be weary of unsolicited phone calls and door to door sales.
- Resist the urge to act immediately to any type of money request. Furthermore, do not feel pressured to give personal information to unknown individuals.
- If you’re questioning a situation, perform a quick google search with the information that you have been provided. Chances are, if it’s a scam, someone else has previously encountered it and taken to the internet to forewarn others.
- Do not open links or download an attachment from anyone that you do not know.
- If unusual pop ups appear on your screen, disconnect from the internet and power down your device immediately.
- Legitimate agencies and businesses will not initiate phone calls, requesting money orders, gift cards, cashier’s checks, etc.
- Protect your computer by using anti-virus software from a reputable company. Update them regularly to ensure optimal protection from scammers.
- Reach out to a family member or a licensed professional in-home care provider if something doesn’t feel right. Remember to always trust your instincts.