5 Scam Prevention Tips for Seniors
How can people who didn’t grow up with technology protect themselves against some of the most common types of online fraud?
Did you know that scammers prey on the elderly more than any other age group? In fact, one study found that seniors lose approximately $36.5 billion each year to fraud and scam artists.
If you’re a senior, it’s important to be aware of the common scams out there and take steps to protect yourself.
No one is immune to scams, but seniors are often targeted because they may have a nest egg saved up and be less likely to report a crime.
As our population ages, more and more seniors are becoming targets of scams. Criminals know that older Americans may be more trusting and less likely to report a scam, so they often target this population with schemes designed to steal their money or identities.
Elders can be easy prey for con artists because they may be lonely, isolated, or unaware of the latest scams.
By being aware of common scam tactics and taking some simple precautions, you can protect yourself from fraudsters.
The conventional thinking is that seniors tend to be at a higher risk of falling prey to scam artists than their children or grandchildren.
Regardless of whether this is true or not, older people in the United States alone are swindled out of some US$3 billion a year via all manner of schemes, including internet-enabled theft, identity theft, fraud, and exploitation.
Moreover, any such statistics are likely to represent only a fraction of the actual damage, since many victims are too embarrassed to come forward and admit that they had been taken in by scammers.
What makes many aging people vulnerable to online fraud, anyway? Among other things, fraudsters may exploit their trusting nature and, in some cases, deteriorating cognitive abilities caused by aging.
Needless to say, the con artists may leverage the fact that the intended victims didn’t grow up with technology and never took even the most basic cybersecurity training.
Here are 5 scam prevention tips for seniors.
Never assume that a stranger online is a trustworthy person. Indeed, you would be well-advised to always consider the possibility that the unexpected message may be a scam attempt.
By extension, you should exercise caution even if the message comes (or seems to come) from someone you do know, and this applies equally to messages delivered via email, instant messaging apps or social media.
Watch out for anything unusual about the message or sender; it could be a bad guy who has hijacked your friend’s online account and uses it to blast out malicious spam. If in doubt, throw it out!
Don’t Click Links
A phishing attack, which is one of the most pervasive online cons, typically begins with an unsolicited email or social media message in which the fraudster impersonates a trusted entity and, using social engineering techniques, attempts to persuade you to hand over your sensitive data, such as credit card details or login credentials.
Many con artists have diversified far beyond misspelled and purely text-based phishing messages, building entire lookalike websites and Facebook pages as lures for campaigns.
You should never automatically assume that any material received out of the blue – no matter how official it looks – is authentic.
Be wary of clicking on links or open attachments in emails even if the message appears to be from a known, trusted source.
Say No to ‘Freebies’
Similarly, fraudsters may also send you an email to congratulate you on your ‘win’ in a lottery or sweepstake you never entered in the first place.
Nevertheless, in order for your ‘prize’ to be released, they will ask for your personal details and/or request a payment upfront in a kind of ‘advance-fee scam’.
Typically, the missive will instill a sense of urgency, asking you to respond promptly or risk missing out. Remember that legitimate lotteries never require winners to pay fees to collect their winnings.
Never Wire Money to Strangers
Confidence/romance fraud, where the victim is tricked into sending money or personal information to the false admirer, was the second costliest type of online fraud to hit people of all ages in 2018, causing aggregate losses worth US$362 million.
Worse, the FBI’s latest Internet Crime Report also found that almost one-third of romance scam victims are estimated to have been used as money mules, which made them unsuspecting crime accomplices.
Romance scams have for years been high on the list of the most common scams against seniors, which may not be surprising in the sense that loneliness is one of the most common issues many seniors face.
Hang Up the Phone
In tech support fraud, con artists will often seek to convince you that your computer has been compromised by malware and that you need to provide them with remote access to your device so they can fix the issue.
Of course, the pretext is fake, but the ensuing damage – the loss of personal information and money – is very real.
You should never provide a stranger with remote access to your computer, even if they claim to represent a reputable vendor.
The last tip is mainly intended for the younger of us: Let’s keep an open dialogue with our parents and grandparents and explain the basic cybersecurity practices to them in a relatable manner.
On top of acquiring a better understanding of the dangers of the online world, many of them will feel more engaged and less lonely, which may ultimately help them stay safer online.
The best way to protect your loved ones is to be aware of the scams that are out there and take precautions.
Help elderly be proactive and educated on the different types of scams that are out there. Arm yourself with the knowledge of what to watch for, and you’ll be less likely to fall victim to a scam.
If you have elderly loved ones in your life, share these scam prevention tips with them so they can stay safe, too.
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