Online scams targeting seniors are on the rise. AARP recently shared that “adults 50 years and older lost an estimated $1.8 billion” to internet scams in 2020. If you’re an older adult who shops, socializes and searches for information online, here are some ways to protect yourself from common online scams.
Why Online Scams Happen
Internet scams occur because it’s an easy way for criminals to make money. They simply need your personal information to gain access to your accounts. Once they have access, they can steal your identity and money.
Anyone can be a victim of cyber crime, but seniors are most likely to be targeted. Seniors are a common target because they have more profitable assets amassed during their lifetime than their younger counterparts. In addition, they often have access to Medicare and Social Security benefits, which scammers can gain access to if they gain your personal information.
Knowledge is power when it comes to internet safety. The more you know about common scams and how to avoid them, the more you’ll be able to increase your online safety.
Common Internet Scams Targeting Seniors
Here are four common internet scams that target seniors.
- Fake Shopping Websites. Scammers create fake shopping websites that look similar to legitimate websites. On these fraudulent websites, scammers sell fake goods or steal your payment (credit card or debit card) information. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that “online shopping fraud increased sharply among adults aged 60 and higher” in recent years.
- Fake Romantic Partners. You may have heard the term “catfishing.” This is when someone creates a fake online identity to trick another person into a relationship. Once the scammer has gained your trust, they will ask you to send them large amounts of money, because they are in financial trouble. The FTC recently reported “older adults lost about $139 million to romance scams – the highest total reported loss of any scam category.”
- Medicare Scam. Online con artists may impersonate a Medicare staff member and ask for your Medicare information. Once they have it, they will sell it or use it to gain access to your other accounts.
- Tech Support Scam. Scammers often create urgent pop-ups that display warning messages such as “your device is infected!” It may include an “x” or “close” button to encourage the user to click on it. Once the user clicks on the pop-up, a virus automatically downloads, giving the scammer access to your personal information on your device.
How to Prevent Getting Scammed Online
Now that you’re aware of the current scams targeting seniors, you can take the appropriate steps to avoid becoming a statistic. Here are six ways to prevent getting scammed online.
- Don’t Click on Links or Open Attachments From Unknown Senders. If you receive a strange email or text with links, do not click on them. These malicious links can contain viruses that may damage your device or give a scammer access to your personal information. Be wary of scammers impersonating your friends and family’s email addresses. If something looks suspicious, don’t open or click on it.
- Shop on Reputable Websites. Only shop on secure and legitimate websites. Check the logo and the spelling of the URL to see if you’re on the correct website. Instead of clicking on a link that’s emailed or texted to you, type the URL of the website you want to visit directly into your web browser. Another way to see if a website is secure is to “look for the padlock icon at the bottom of your browser, which indicates that the site uses encryption,” suggests The CISA cybersecurity awareness program.
- Never Give Away Your Personal Information. If you receive a strange email, text or phone call requesting your social security number, bank account number or medical information, do not give it away. Keep your personal information private so you are not a victim of identity theft.
- Install Antivirus Software. Purchase antivirus software from a legitimate company. This will help protect your device should a virus or malware be downloaded.
- Research New Romantic Partners or Friends. When initiating online dating or friendships, always do your own background research. You can reverse search a profile picture to see if anyone else is using it. You can also Google your new friend’s name and job title to see if anyone has reported being scammed by a similar person.
Get More Resources from The Stayton
At The Stayton, we want you to make the most of the retirement you have planned and saved for. We are dedicated to creating a retirement lifestyle that nurtures your physical and emotional well-being, and our exceptional location in downtown Fort Worth offers all of the conveniences of big city living. Contact us to learn more about why so many older adults choose to live here.