The internet is a powerful tool that has transformed the way we live our lives. It puts a world of knowledge at our fingertips, and allows us to connect with others around the globe instantly. Unfortunately, this power isn’t always used in a positive way. Unscrupulous scammers are constantly looking for new ways to take advantage, and seniors are often their targets.
Read on to learn more about some of the most common online scams targeting seniors, get tips to protect yourself and learn more about other helpful resources available from the community at Oak Trace.
Why Do Online Scams Happen to Seniors?
Even with the best intentions and a cautious approach, people of all ages can fall victim to online scams. However, there are a few key factors that make older adults more prone to being the focus of internet scammers.
- Finances. After years of planning for retirement, many seniors have significant amounts of accessible money saved away. Ultimately, scammers are looking for financial gain, and see an opportunity in these pools of cash.
- Benefits. In addition to retirement accounts, seniors are eligible to receive government benefits such as Medicare and Social Security. This regular flow of payments opens up additional sources for scammers to target.
- Extended Family. Older adults often have large extended families, and it can be hard to have close connections with everyone, despite how much you care for them. Scammers will try to exploit these connections, posing as family members in need of assistance.
How to Spot Common Internet Scams That Target Seniors
When you know what to be cautious about online, it’s easier to take steps to protect yourself. Here are four of the most common scams that target seniors.
A phishing scam is when the scammer uses a fake email, text or website to trick a person into revealing sensitive details or installing malicious software on their computer. It may appear your doctor is requesting information or a friend sent you a file attachment, but in reality your data is being routed into unsafe hands.
Online Dating Scams
These days, online dating has become the most popular way for couples to connect, and seniors are no exception. Scammers specifically target seniors who are living alone or experiencing isolation, as they may be more willing to overlook red flags. As the online connection grows, the scammer pretending to be a romantic interest might start asking for money, especially in the form of wire transfers or gift cards, or soliciting other personal information.
Contest Winner Scams
Fake sweepstakes or lotteries are a scam as old as time, and the internet has given fraudsters even more opportunities. You might get an email or visit a website that tells you you’ve won a big prize, and all you need to do to collect it is provide your bank account or credit card information. When a situation like this seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Health Product Scams
As we age, staying healthy becomes more of a priority. Products that promise to make you look and feel younger or save money on prescriptions can be especially enticing. In most cases, these “solutions” are just placebos and can actually cause more harm than good. The real motivations behind them are to take your money and collect your insurance information. Beware of anyone who reaches out to you via email, text or phone who is offering you a free or discounted product in exchange for your health insurance, Medicare or financial information.
Tips to Protect Yourself From Online Scams
While there are many online scams out there, you can mitigate your risk of falling victim to one by putting these internet safety tips into practice.
- Change passwords often. Your password is the key to your online information. Try to update your passwords every few months, and avoid using the same password across multiple accounts. The strongest passwords are around 16 characters, and use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols.
- Install antivirus software. Using a reputable antivirus software will do a lot of the hard work for you. These programs work around the clock in the background, scanning your computer for viruses and identifying suspicious activity and threats you might not notice otherwise.
- Don’t open strange links or attachments. If you receive an email from an unknown or suspicious source, don’t click on any of the links or download the attachments. Even in the case of an unexpected email from a friend or loved one, pick up the phone and confirm they sent it before taking any further action.
- Watch for secure websites. Any website that’s processing sensitive information should be secure. This is indicated by the web address starting with “https://” and a small lock icon displaying in the browser. When these elements are missing, it’s not a website you should be putting any personal data into.
Get More Resources From Oak Trace
At Oak Trace, the safety and wellness of our residents always comes first. Our dedicated team works with each individual to understand their goals and craft a custom plan to help them get the most out of each day. Whether that’s taking part in a talk about cybersecurity or exploring our beautifully landscaped gardens, we’re here to help residents pursue their passions.