How to protect seniors in the digital environment?


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Senior citizens are using technology more than ever before. Smart devices help them stay connected with their loved ones, and get essential goods and services from the comfort of their homes. Seniors are among the prime targets for cyber crimes due to their savings and their inexperience with technology.

Older people are swindled out of more than $3 billion each year. In 2021, total reported losses to romance scams in the US hit a high of $547 million. Adults over 60 reportedly lost at least $52 million from online shopping scams according to AARP.

The scams can take place over the phone, online or in person. Seniors should avoid giving out personal or financial information to strangers. They should ask questions and seek help when in doubt.

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IC3 Complaints 2021

Source : Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

1. What are the top cybersecurity threats for seniors?

Tech support scams occur when scammers want you to believe you have a serious problem with your computer and want you to pay for tech support services you don’t need or to fix a problem that doesn’t exist.

It’s the illegal use of someone else’s personal information.

  • Government impersonation scams

Scammers call unsuspecting older adults and pretend to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Social Security Administration, or Medicare.

Romance scam is when a criminal adopts a fake online identity to gain a victim’s affection and trust.

Unlawful extraction of money or property through intimidation or undue exercise of authority. It may include threats of physical harm, criminal prosecution, or public exposure.

Sextortion occurs when someone threatens to distribute your private and sensitive material if their demands are not met.

Online Shopping Scams occur when scammers pretend to be legitimate online sellers, either with a fake website or a fake ad on a genuine retailer site.

Imposter Scams occur when scammers pretend to be someone you trust to convince you to send them money.

Scammers contact you via mail, internet, and the phone with promises of a prize such as a car, a vacation, or a large sum of money and require you to pay fees to claim your prize.

Phishing is a fraudulent attempt to extract money, obtain sensitive information such as phone numbers, login credentials, or credit card details or install malware by pretending to be an entity that is trusted by the target.

2. What can seniors do to protect themselves against scams?

  • Be aware that you are at risk from strangers—and from those closest to you.
  • Shred all receipts with your credit card number.
  • Sign up for the “Do Not Call” list and take yourself off multiple mailing lists.
  • Use direct deposit for benefit checks to prevent checks from being stolen from the mailbox.
  • Never give your credit card, banking, Social Security, Medicare, or other personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call.
  • Be skeptical of all unsolicited offers and thoroughly do your research.

3. How can caregivers and loved ones protect seniors?

If you know or care for an older adult, here are some additional warning signs that may indicate they are the victim of financial abuse:

  • There are unusual recent changes in the person’s accounts, including atypical withdrawals, new person(s) added, or sudden use of a senior’s ATM or credit card.
  • The senior suddenly appears confused, unkempt, and afraid.
  • Utility, rent, mortgage, medical, or other essential bills are unpaid despite adequate income.
  • A caregiver will not allow others access to the senior.
  • There are piled up sweepstakes mailings, magazine subscriptions, or “free gifts”, which means they may be on “sucker lists”.

4. What to do if you’re a victim of scams or elder fraud?

If you think you’ve been scammed, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to talk about it—waiting could only make it worse. Immediately:

  • Call your bank and/or credit card company.
  • Cancel any debit or credit cards linked to the stolen account.
  • Reset your personal identification number(s).
  • Also, contact legal services and Adult Protective Services if warranted. To find your local offices, visit the Eldercare Locator or call them toll-free at 1-800-677-1116 weekdays 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET.

5. What resources are available for seniors to protect themselves?

1) Books

2) Courses

3) Documents

4) Podcasts

5) Documentary

6) Videos

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Copyright © 2022 CyberMaterial. All Rights Reserved.

This article was written by Marc Raphael with the support of Team CyberMaterialSofia C. V.Nicolás PeñaFabino R. Darius

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