According to the Pew Research Center, 61 percent of adults aged 65 and older now own a smartphone. That’s a drastic increase over the years, especially considering that only 13 percent of senior citizens had a smartphone back in 2012. Unfortunately, older generations have become a target of cybercriminals, with scam victims over the age of 60 losing an average of $9,100 to fraudsters.
It’s encouraging to see that more seniors are adapting to the digital world. But it also means that now, more than ever before, internet users of every age need to be aware of common scams and other threats lurking on the web. If you or a loved one is learning new tech at an advanced age, it’s essential that you educate them on how to stay safe and secure on the web. Keep reading for a few tips to help you do just that.
Internet scams that target the elderly
With seniors becoming savvier in using computers, smartphones, and tablets, they also become more exposed to internet scams. Fortunately, there are ways to help seniors avoid getting scammed, and the first step is for them to know how to spot these web scams.
From counterfeit medications to fraudulent health services, older people are more likely to fall victim to health-related scams. Since seniors may be more conscious of their health than other populations, they become easier targets for fraudulent health care providers. Scam artists could act as health care representatives in an effort to pry personal and financial information, or sell counterfeit medications that are cheaper but dangerous to the health.
If you know an elderly person or any individual who is currently taking medications or going through health care procedures, remind them to be wary of these scam artists. You can refer to this list of tips to help seniors avoid fraud in the form of health care services, prescription medications, and anti-aging products.
Scam artists and cybercriminals assume that elderly people have money in savings or in the form of retirement pay, and that’s usually a correct assumption. Seniors, especially those who are fresh off retirement, might want to funnel the bulk of their savings and retirement funds into investments that could safeguard or even increase their money. This may be a wise plan, but it’s important to be careful in choosing financial advisors or investment agencies on the web.
With how easy it is to set up any kind of social media profile, fraudulent investment advisors approach elderly people with the hopes of luring them into pyramid schemes and fake investments. Scam artists might even use phony testimonies and forge stories that further encourage people to trust their product or offering.
Fake virus alerts
While surfing the web, you’ve probably seen alerts or advertisements saying that your device has been infected with a virus. You may know that this is a scam, but your senior loved ones might be more rattled by these alerts. These fake virus alerts could come in the form of pop-ups that lead to a device being infected with malware when clicked.
Moreover, the pop-up alerts could also include a contact number of a fake tech support representative. These could target elderly people as they are already confounded by the fake alerts and might be more inclined to call the number. When this happens, the fake tech support representative could deceive an individual into providing computer access or personal information.
This is a scam that has been going on for a while now, with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reporting that older adults are 5 times more likely to lose money on tech support scams. This is a threat that everyone should be wary of, especially because in 2018 alone, individuals lost a total of at least $55 million to tech support scams.
Similar to fake virus alerts and tech support scams, lottery scams also appear as pop-up alerts or show within advertisement spaces on a webpage. There are also fake lottery alerts that people can receive in their email inboxes. These scams often say that you have entered a winning combination or your name was selected as a prize winner in a phony lottery.
If a senior sees these lottery scam alerts, they may be tempted to click on them, especially if they are not aware that this scheme is the work of a con artist. With this scheme, victims are urged to provide their personal information and bank details. Sometimes these pop-ups or windows are also equipped with malware. What’s even more dangerous in this scam is that when an individual is asked to enter their credit card details and pay a certain fee, the money can be instantly transferred to the scammer’s account.
Tips to help seniors stay safe on the web
While more seniors are getting comfortable with using the web, many older individuals still want help using new tech. Pew Research Center, in the above-mentioned study, found that 77 percent of older adults still need assistance when they try to learn a new app, software, or technology for the first time.
Technology is a way of life now, and elderly people may not exactly need step-by-step instructions on how to use a computer or smartphone. Still, staying safe and secure while surfing the web could take time to get used to, so it won’t hurt to remind your senior family members of these helpful tips.
Use unique passwords
It’s important to have strong and unique passwords, especially when signing in on social media platforms. Passwords act as the frontline defense against hackers and cyber criminals, so they have to be unique and should not contain any obvious personal information from the user.
In addition, you can also advise your senior loved ones to change passwords from time to time as they may never know if someone has gained unauthorized access to their accounts. Regularly changing passwords prevents any continued access, especially if they believe that their account has been compromised.
Never share personal information
It may be tempting to share some bits of personal information, especially when you are telling an exciting story on social media. But posting content on social media and forums should have a limit, particularly when it involves any kind of confidential or personal information about you.
Moreover, you should also remind your elderly loved ones not to share their current location. An advanced technology called geotagging uses location coordinates to track a specific area. This technology can be used by potential thieves to know where a person lives — and when they may be away from their home.
Regularly check bank accounts and bills
Since it is likely that they are not receiving a regular salary anymore, elderly people may not make it a habit to check their bank accounts as they did before. But the more complacent they become, the greater the possibility that they are being exposed to fraudulent bank activities and losses. Remind your parents or other family members to always monitor their bank accounts to check for suspicious activity
Invest in security software
With an increasing number of senior citizens relying on the internet and internet-based technology, more individuals than ever before are also turning to digital security providers to provide another layer of security to their devices and personal information.
LifeLock — a trusted identity theft protection provider — offers a 25 percent discount on their customers’ first year of subscription. This deal makes it easier than ever to protect your loved ones, including any senior family members who could use some additional protection while browsing the web. From a personal VPN to advanced security tools, credit and social security number monitoring, and more, LifeLock makes it easy for internet users to stay safe, no matter their age or how they use the web.