Table of Contents
1. Intro to Internet Safety for Seniors
2. What is an Elderly Scam?
3. Precautionary Measures Seniors Should Take
4. How Technology Has Changed Scamming the Elderly
5. How Seniors and the Elderly can Avoid Online Scams
Ultimate Seniors’ Guide to Internet Safety and Online Elderly Scams
Thanks to today’s technological advances and the relative ease of getting online, we are able to learn new things instantly, check for random weather changes, re-connect with old friends, and check our bank account statements all in the comfort of our own homes.
For many seniors, avoiding the computer isn’t an option and they don’t seem bothered with the technical details of a computer. They dive right in to master tasks such as saving and printing a document, receiving an email and browsing the World Wide Web. Seniors have discovered that this ‘new’ technology is able to enhance and simplify their lives.
Please note that we also have a seniors’ guide for phone scams, check it out if you’re looking for help with spam phone calls.
What is an Online Elderly Scam?
Online scams are a hassle that just about every internet user has to deal with, but what exactly are elderly scams? We all are familiar with unwanted pop-ups and malicious pages on the web, but elderly scams are a bit different. These scams are specifically targeted at seniors within certain demographics. This targeting is specifically done so that scammers can have quick access to large sums of cash often owned by seniors within the U.S. or Europe.
Just like advertisers target individuals with ads specifically tailored for them, scammers are targeting seniors with tactics specifically tailored for the elderly. As this article will break down later, modern technology has made scamming seniors even more prevalent.
How Seniors can be proactive about Online Fraud and Elderly Scams
Not only do seniors these days manage their money on the net, play games and order their groceries, some have become bolder and have searched for a soulmate online. There are plenty of dating clubs on the Internet geared specifically towards senior citizens.
But what about Internet safety tips for seniors who are newbies to the online experience? After all, seniors didn’t grow up with computers and aren’t aware of scams, online fraud, identity theft and spam that they’ll soon encounter.
Seniors many times aren’t aware of the fact that you can’t be handing out your home phone number and street address to all those who enter your orbit on the Internet. For seniors it may seem as harmless as leaving a business card with someone interested in your products and services, but on the Internet it can come with unpleasant dimensions. Even something like ordering online delivery can be riddled with scammers trying to steal information.
Be wary of emails that offer free gifts, free getaways and who also offer discount prescription medications.
Protecting Yourself and Your Loved One from the Online Scams of the Web
If you are computer savvy, don’t allow your mom and dad’s unfamiliarity with the web to be a barrier to them enjoying a safe experiencing while surfing the net. There are some simple but effective Internet safety tips for seniors that will protect them against online threats.
In fact, these basic precautionary measures will benefit anyone who uses the computer.
- Make sure the computer has security software on it and also check that the auto-update feature is enabled to ensure your computer has the latest security.
- Passwords need to be unique and strong – these passwords need to be made up of upper and lower case letters as well as numbers. Never reveal your password to anyone online. Passwords are an excellent guarantee of safety and security online.
- Post with caution on social networking sites. It is a good idea to also understand how privacy settings work on social networks.
- Don’t automatically install a software because it is free – these types of software are generally riddled with spyware which can slow or crash your computer.
- Attachments can contain a virus and the virus can be transmitted to your computer just as soon as you open the attachment. Be wary of suspect attachments, even from people you may know. If an email or attachment seems suspicious, don’t open it. Online criminals often use e-mail to get personal information from you in order to steal your identity. Sometimes these emails will invite you to click a link which downloads malware to your computer.
- Although online banking is very convenient for seniors, be sure to only enter information into security-enabled sites. Sites for instance which begin with https:// means that the data is encrypted in transit. Look out for this and don’t enter any bank details or credit card information into websites that start only with http://
- Emotional abuse is as rife online as it is elsewhere. It is best not to satisfy the abuser with any kind of response.
How Technology Puts us at Risk
Today’s technology can be a huge help in conducting business, staying in touch, and finding solutions to every day problems. However, with the increase of time spent online, it is easier than ever for people to fall victim to scam artists. Unlike the real world, where you can avoid dangerous neighborhoods or questionable people, it’s harder than ever to know what’s reputable and what’s not when it comes to online communications and business, especially for seniors who come from a time where person-to-person business was more common and trustworthy.
Below are four tips that will help anyone, but especially seniors, to avoid online scams that can drain bank accounts and cause other types of trouble for finances and even personal identity records.
How Seniors can Avoid Online Elderly Scams
1. Do your research.
Before you do business with a company that you’ve found online, do a quick search for the company name. Look for the physical address, making sure it’s not just a P.O. Box, and also look for reviews. You can also try typing in the company’s name and adding the word “scam” or “complaint” behind it in the search bar, and see what pops up on your search results page.
It’s best to do business with companies you know and trust, in real life and online. If you do choose to purchase something online or through an online auction site, use a payment method that offers a level of protection, like a credit card or a site like PayPal. Never send or give out sensitive financial or identification information (especially your social security number) to any untrusted source.
2. Keep a close eye on your “virtual” wallet.
Remember that wiring money is just like sending real cash or a check, only harder to track or reverse. That’s why it’s common for online scammers, especially from foreign countries, to ask victims to wire them funds. Know that many scammers will reach out through an email (called “phishing”) and claim to be a friend or relative in an emergency, insisting that money be wired to help them, or that a transaction be kept secret. These types of communications are all red flags.
Also be sure to keep a close eye on your financial statements; today many banks make it easy to track your accounts in real-time from your computer or phone. If you see unexpected or unknown charges (some scammers, for example, get extra money from you by charging hidden, recurring “membership fees”), be sure to notify your bank and stop the charges.
3. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
In the online world, just like in real life, there are some proposals and deals that really are too good to be true. Never agree to pay for something or send an unknown person or company funds in exchange for a promised good at a later date, especially fs the situation presented is especially low-risk, high-payout. Scammers may insist you “act now,” guaranteeing big profits with little or no financial risk, demanding that you send cash immediately. Just like in the real world, there’s no sure thing when it comes to investing your money.
Remember also that it is illegal to play any foreign lottery. Although a scammer may tell you you’ve won a great prize, know that they will also be asking you to pay “taxes,” “fees,” or “customs duties” to collect it. Similarly, don’t trust someone asking you to cash a check for them then returning only a portion of the money, no matter how convincing the story. It can take weeks for a bank to discover a check is fake, and you will be held responsible financially for any fake checks you deposit.
4. Keep up with scams.
Agencies like the Federal Trade Commission have fraud alert pages dedicated to listing out the most recent online scams taking place, so check them regularly, or whenever you get a questionable request. Global events and hot topics are often exploited by scammers, such as natural disasters (only donate to trusted, reputable sources) and tax season (scammers claiming to contact you from the IRS or legitimate-sounding but imaginary agencies like the “Bureau of Defaulters”).
Seniors may also be targets for health-related scams, and should always and only purchase medicines or supplements from trusted U.S. pharmacies. Otherwise, they are taking a risk with a product that could be mislabeled, expired, or even completely fake. You may pay for the product and never receive it, with no way to get your money back. Scammers can create very attractive and legitimate-looking websites, using fake success stories and models; don’t buy into a product without checking with your own doctor as well.
Final Word: Seniors Shouldn’t Venture onto the Internet without Precautionary Measures
The Internet holds enormous benefits for seniors, but even though the Internet is a useful tool, there are dangers which come with its use. If you are a seasoned Internet surfer, do inform your loved one of the nasty side of the Internet. They need to use it wisely to ensure it remains an exciting medium of communication for them.
You can report any attempts at scams or phishing to the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.ftc.gov/complaint to help battle online fraud.