The internet can have many positive benefits for seniors, such as keeping connected with family and their community, it makes banking and bill paying more convenient, and they can shop from the comfort of their own home during these cold winter months. On the flip side, the internet can also come with many dangers…
Did you know that an estimated $30 Billion are lost to seniors each year due to online scams, and that an estimated 954,000 seniors will have to skip a meal or more due to the financial hardships resulting from scams and caregiver abuse? (Source: True Link Financial Study).
Here are a few safety tips that seniors can use to help protect themselves.
Never Assume a Stranger Online is Trustworthy
Unless you have a real-world relationship with the person who is trying to communicate with you, it is highly likely that they are trying to scam you.
If an offer through an email sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. It is likely a fictitious offer or prize created to trick you into giving out private information, to wire money to a scammer, or to get you to install malicious software on to your computer.
Never Provide Any of Your Sensitive Information Online
Some websites that request private information are trustworthy, such as an online tax filing or banking website. But there are many website scams designed to trick you into giving out your private information, such as your usernames and passwords.
If you have any concerns about whether you can trust an email or website, call the customer service phone number for the company or institution. It is likely a scammer trying to access your sensitive accounts. They might even try to use the information to steal your identity.
Never Assume that Someone Who Knows Things About You is Someone You Can Trust
It is easy for scammers to get personal information about you. They do this by illegally or legally purchasing mailing lists from organizations and groups. They also can find a fair amount of information about you freely available through city, provincial, or federal government websites.
It can be so easy for someone to find out personal information about you and then use it to trick you into thinking that they are someone they are not. It is important for you to always be cautious when communicating with strangers online, even if they do know information like your address, full name, the number of children you have etc.
Top Scams Targeting Seniors
There are three primary ways that scammers will use to try to take advantage of seniors online.
The most common type of email scam is a request for a short-term loan, either to help someone in need (The Nigerian Prince Scam is a good example), or with the promise of a big return on your money.
Scammers create email messages and websites that look almost 100% legitimate. This usually comes in the form of a trusted banking or government establishment. Although the email or website might look valid, a government or banking representative will NEVER ask you for your username and password.
This type of scam can also be used to gain access to your other online accounts, such as social media or email logins.
Website Pop-Up Ads and Warnings
Scammers will use either congratulatory or fearful messaging text to encourage you to click links in the web page.
Here are a few examples:
- Congratulations! You’ve Won a Prize: In this scam, a website is set up by a scammer. When you visit that site , it will notify you that you’ve won a prize. Similar to the Nigerian Prince email scam, the scammers might request a down payment to secure your prize, or they might ask for your banking information so that they can deposit your winnings.
- Warning! Install Required Security Software: In this scam, the page warns that your computer is compromised and that you must immediately install their software. Large companies such as Microsoft or Apple do NOT notify you of security issues via pop-ups.
In either case, the messages are malicious, and someone is trying to scam you.
Impersonation in Social Media and Online Dating Sites
Often scammers use social media and dating sites to befriend you or even to claim that they actually know you. They will gain information found online about you, and use that information in hopes of gaining your trust by knowing personal details about you. The Grandparent Scam is a great example, this scam usually involves a phone call from someone who pretends to be your grandchild.
If you have ever watched Dr.Phil, you might know of the term “Catfish”. Catfishing is a Romance Scam. In the video bellow Dr.Phil explains how catfishing schemes can destroy people’s lives.
Scammers commonly target seniors through online dating sites, pretending to be an interested suitor. When in reality, the person they claim to be is someone totally different. They will use someone else’s images, that they have found online and create a fake online profile to communicate with you as that person.
If you have been dating someone online, have never met in the real-world, and they request very personal information from you or for you to send them money, do NOT trust them.
To learn more about common scams against seniors, check out the following links:
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