October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, making it an excellent time to talk with your aging loved one about staying safe while online.
According to the FBI’s Scams & Safety website, seniors are highly targeted by scammers of all kinds because they are widely expected to have a nest egg saved up, own their own house and have excellent credit. Because children in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s were taught to be polite and trusting, scammers also expect older generations to be easier targets. Many scammers think seniors are even easier targets online because they didn’t grow up with today’s technology like younger generations did, and therefore scammers don’t think they will be as savvy about Internet safety and risks.
Seniors are also less likely to report scams. They either don’t know who to report a scam to, or they are simply embarrassed. Whatever the reason, this tendency also puts seniors at higher risk.
The best way to protect your loved one from scammers is to educate him or her about what to look for. Here are three of the most common phishing scams targeting seniors, as listed by AARP:
» Scans using the name of well-known companies, such as Microsoft: These emails claim to represent a well-known company and may even look very much like the company by using company identifiers such as logos. These emails will make some sort of claim as a precursor to asking for personal information, such as your login password.
» Scams that say you have won a lottery: These emails will tell you that you have won a lottery, even though you didn’t enter one. They may try to align with a well-known company to try to look credible. Again, these emails will make a claim to try to get personal information from you — such as that they need your bank account number to deposit your winnings.
» Scams that pretend to be security software: Also known as “scareware,” rogue security software claims to be effective security software, but does not actually protect the computer. Often, the software actually causes false security alerts — or worse, will lead you to make fraudulent transactions to gain personal information or take your money.
Seniors, like all Internet users, will also benefit from general computer security practices such as using antivirus software, setting up a firewall, and never opening emails from unknown addresses or following links to unknown sites. The Department of Homeland Security’s National Cyber Security Awareness Month website offers even more information about computer safety basics.
“Make sure your loved one knows that if they are scammed, they can come to you for help without fear of being judged,” said Tina Kreider, owner of Right at Home of Santa Barbara. “Many seniors do not report fraud because they worry that their friends and family may think they are no longer able to look after themselves.”
To report a scam, contact the FBI or submit a report online through the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
The Internet has predators, but it doesn’t mean seniors shouldn’t use it.
“There is risk in everything we do. If we travel by airplane, we know that there is a small chance that the plane can experience engine trouble or worse,” as explained by Norton in its Cyber Safe Seniors Guide. “If you follow some general rules and guidelines … you will find the Internet a nonscary, fun and enchanting place to visit.”