The American Journal of Public Health estimates that around two to three million seniors are victims of internet scams every year. As the online world becomes increasingly more complex, how can you keep yourself from becoming another statistic?
Here, we discuss why online scammers so often target seniors, how you can identify some of the most common ones, and how to prevent yourself from falling for one.
Why Online Scammers Target Seniors
Why are seniors more likely to be targeted by cybercriminals? Generally speaking, older adults have accumulated more wealth than younger adults, which makes them more lucrative targets. They are also more likely to be homeowners and have access to both Medicare and Social Security Benefits. The former can make them the target of loan or real estate fraud, and the latter can be tapped into by criminals and easily siphoned away.
In addition, older adults are assumed to be more trusting and polite when a fraudster reaches out pretending to be a member of a government or financial institution. They are also less likely to report a scam. Those who have been scammed often feel a sense of shame or denial, resulting in the scammers getting away with their crimes.
Common Internet Scams Targeting Seniors
Now that we have a better understanding of why these scams occur, it’s important to know some of the most common scams out there. Knowing these internet scams will help you identify potential scams before you become a victim.
Some of the most common online scams are committed using malware links in emails. Simply opening an email from a suspicious user could result in an automatic download of malware onto your computer. If you notice something downloading after opening an email, delete the email immediately and cancel the download if you are able. Most often, emails containing malware will request you to download something that seems innocuous or unimportant. Once the malware is installed, it can damage your device or allow hackers to access critical information on your computer.
Phishing emails have become increasingly sophisticated and can now do a convincing job of imitating companies you may already have online accounts for. They are often emails that ask you to log in to address an important, time-sensitive issue or claim to notify you of an error with your account. Once you click the link, you are led to a landing page that can convincingly imitate the actual login page of the company where you have an account. If you receive an official-looking email asking you to click a link to log in to your account, delete the email and log in to the account manually directly from your web browser. This is the only way to ensure you are logging into a verified website.
Counterfeit Prescription Drugs
Counterfeit prescription drugs are another lucrative scam for fraudsters. These could be offered via an online advertisement, an email, or a phone call that claims to be selling prescription drugs at a discounted price. In reality, these scams are designed to either take your personal financial information without sending you a product, or sending you a sham product.
Sweepstakes scams can pop up all over the internet (including email), and can even arrive as a text on your phone. This scam is designed to make you feel as though you’ve won a big or major prize, and will often ask you to cover a small shipping and handling fee or request bank account information to transfer your “winnings.”
How to Prevent Getting Scammed Online
Now that you can identify some of the most common types of scams targeting seniors, here are some of the best strategies for avoiding these types of scams and mitigating your risk online.
- Don’t click links in emails from unfamiliar senders. Even if an email seems legitimate, make sure to double check the email address (not just the name appearing with it). Many phishing scams will mirror online accounts you do have, but the email address itself will feature misspellings, added numbers or other suspicious clues.
- Do not enter login information or personal information without verifying the source. For example, your bank or credit union are unlikely to request confirmation of personal or account details through an email or text message.
- Remember that nothing on the internet is free. For sweepstakes scams especially, the request to input credit card information in order to receive something you have “won” should be a big red flag. If it appears too good to be true, it probably is.
- Don’t input insurance information online. Many online scams targeting seniors are increasingly sophisticated and do an excellent job of mimicking authority figures like your doctor’s office or Medicare provider. As a rule of thumb, if you ever receive a request to input your Medicare or health insurance information online, verify its legitimacy by phoning your healthcare provider before giving this information over the internet.
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At Querencia, we are committed to creating an exceptional retirement living experience – including one that takes into account your safety, whether that’s online or off. We do this by providing numerous amenities, social enrichment opportunities and educational programs to help keep you abreast of technology trends and online safety.
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