Though technology improves the lives of seniors in several ways, there are some considerations regarding their digital safety and well-being. Scams and cybercrime are always a risk when going online, and such schemes often target seniors. The American Journal of Public Health estimates that around 5% of America's senior population falls victim to fraud yearly. This translates into a multibillion-dollar industry preying on seniors.
Scams come in all forms, from phishing emails and phone calls to fake websites and social media profiles. Seniors must know how to identify these threats and report them to the proper authorities.
When it comes to online scams, there are a few that target seniors specifically. The first is the grandparent scam, where a criminal contacts someone pretending to be their grandchild in need of money. This is usually through text, email or social media, and the scammer will use personal information about the victim's loved ones to make the request seem more legitimate.
Another common online scam is the fake antivirus software scheme. In this case, a criminal will send an email or pop-up message claiming the computer is infected with a virus. They'll then offer to sell bogus antivirus software to fix the problem. Unfortunately, this software does nothing to protect the computer and instead gives the scammer access to their personal information.
To avoid such schemes, seniors should:
- Never click on links or attachments from someone they don't know.
- Be cautious of unexpected messages or calls related to their computer's security.
- Understand wireless consumer safety issues when using mobile devices or laptops to go online.
With more information about the risks associated with going online, seniors can better protect themselves.
In addition to online scams, there are also phone scams that target seniors. In the Medicare scam, a fraudster calls pretending to be from Medicare or another health insurance provider. They'll try to get personal information like a Social Security number or bank account number to commit identity theft or to bill the senior for bogus services.
To avoid such scams, seniors should:
- Never give out their personal information to someone they don't know.
- Ask for the caller's name, company and contact information.
- Hang up if the caller refuses to answer questions or becomes agitated.
Seniors can be easy targets without knowledge of these scams or how to block them. Therefore, it's best to provide them with information and tips on how to identify an account hack and how to use account security features.
Seniors may unknowingly download malware onto their computers by clicking on a malicious attachment or ad. They may also accidentally share personal information online, leading to identity theft.
Likewise, many seniors might be unfamiliar with how to use social media safely. They may friend or follow people they don't know, which could make them vulnerable to scammers and cybercriminals.
It's critical to educate seniors about the dangers of misusing technology, as well as how to use it safely. Here are a few tips:
- Only friend or follow people you know and trust on social media.
- Use strong passwords and never reuse them.
- Keep your software and antivirus programs up to date.
By following these simple tips, they can stay safe when using new technology.