Imagine this love story of Mia’s 78-year-old father. He fell in love with a woman on a dating website. The woman was wonderful and tender. Glenda started pouring her heart to this dear old man without meeting him in person.
The couple had many beautiful moments, and Mia’s father could feel Glenda’s goodness during the precious hours they spent talking over and sharing their life experiences.
Glenda and Harry bonded soul to soul and heart to heart through many emotional exchanges. Mia never worried about her fairly tech-savvy father. Mia, herself had spoken to Glenda — and Glenda loved Harry’s daughter, too.
Glenda — (the phone person — he/she – God knows!), on the other hand, started requesting financial-aid from daddy, Harry. Of course, daddy, never mentioned this point to Mia — so she remained blithely unaware. According to Mia, her father was merely “talking” to someone — taking up some lonely hours.
But, Glenda needed help for herself and her physically-challenged daughter. Over the next several years, our personable Glenda — turned villain — and parlayed the “aide” of a generous older gentleman — from a few hundred bucks into $400,000.
We may be making our grandparents digital-savvy — but they’re still prime prey for prying eyes.
Not the Internet alone.
Before proceeding, let’s quickly overview the internet saturation among the senior citizens; thanks to Medalerthelp.org, for conducting a comprehensive survey.
It’s good that the pre-conceived notion – elderly are technophobes – has now been changing; venturing the internet out from the young-only era. But, like in the case with other age groups, seniors are also under the radar of cyber warfare; a war that everyone has to fight to protect.
How Are Elders Being Scammed? A Massive Problem in the US
“Elderly people lose out on about $3 billion to scammers every year.”
Scammers hate any type of discrimination. They are self-invited in by everyone to get money out of anyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, rich, poor, 65 and healthy, 85 or ailing.
American Journal of Public Health estimates that approx 5% of senior citizens – that makes up to 2 – 3 million US citizens – suffer as part of scams each year. The estimate is considered a low one, considering the fact that 176 million health care records have been hacked, according to HIPPAJournal.com. Let’s see: who goes to the doctor more often? Older people, or younger people?
Do you know, as per the city of London, 85% of fraud and cybercrime unreported; this means the figure above is just 15% of what seniors are facing in the unprotected world of internet.
Why the elderly? Come on — senior citizens are most trustworthy and trusting — and they have the most assets with loaded retirement funds and government benefits.
Scamming is a multi-billion dollar business. Other estimates reflected that seniors loss up to $36 billion/year.
- Isolation – Loneliness does not only eat away happiness but also make an individual susceptible to scams.
- Easily Trusting – Generations that grew up in 1920s, ‘3s, ‘40s are more frequently targeted by scammers than any others – they are more trusting.
- Financial Insecurity – Some seniors seek the more get-rich-quick sources of income, pyramid schemes attract them, while hackers’ take this as an advantage.
- Social Insecurities – Aging is when we live on govt-funded insurances, scammers become a government representative and ask seniors to pay a particular medical bill or else they won’t be entertained further. Scammers use healthcare data security threatening sources for digging information.
- Embarrassment – It’s easier to embarrass elders than youngsters; this is why seniors are the hackers’ easy target; also, importantly — they don’t easily report a fraud.
The results or scamming are horrendous. A scammer uses multiple twists to get the maximum cash and other non-financial returns.
One of the well-renowned ones is the grandparent scam. Don’t know about this scam? Please get to know this now. All of our futures are hanging on the outcome of the grandparent scam.
The Grandparent scam works similarly to this:
The victim receives a call from a stranger posing as his or her grandkid, using a frantic-sounding voice, that he or she is in trouble. Arrest, accident, or a robbery. Want to up the drama? The caller sometimes claims to be stuck in a foreign country — and to impersonate more intensity, throw in some family particulars, which he/she taken from the actual grandchild’s social media profiles.
All drama of such a personal emergency scam is just for the sake of asking money immediately — and this often allows the scammer into the motherlode of all the savings.
Do you know the innovative ways that the scammers use to deal with senior victims? They ask them to keep the bills into envelopes, placing them between the magazine pages, and then send them via carrier, including U.S. Postal Service, UPS, FedEx, and others.
There could be so many other faces of scams, some of them are;
- You owe me money scam – It’s common for scammers to send “bills” to people to those who don’t owe the money.
- Winning Lottery – If you find a bright and loud advertisement that you’ve won a sweepstake, asking your bank details to wire your winning money; close or better to report it as “Nothing is free.”
- Fake Anti-aging Products – Everyone deserves to look and feel younger, but not at the expense of phony or counterfeit Botox, creams, and other products; scammers can do anything to trap you.
- Employment Scams – Aging Baby boomers are more hardworking than any other aging generation before; scammers post fake job listings to get the personal information of seniors.
- Dating scam – We all have somehow found love (at least once) via dating websites, but so many have been scammed out of money by such con artists.
- Infected scam – Hello it’s Mr. XYZ from “Microsoft,” your computer is highly vulnerable to hacking, and I am here to fix it for you. Hang up immediately! Reputable companies like Microsoft never make such calls, but criminals do for money and planting viruses on your machine.
- Sweetheart Scam – This is precisely what I have shared at the beginning of this piece; this is more or less associated with isolation, that leads scammers to intervene.
- Counterfeit Prescription Drugs – What if you find your prescribed drugs at a discounted rate? You would buy (may be in advance.) Scammers play with this nerve to extract personal information; these drugs may be counterfeit or placebos.
- Malware – It’s an easy way that a hacker uses to damage your computer or install ransomware to extract essential data saved on your systems, such as a retirement account, tax files, and bank account details, and more.
- Free Vacations – Who doesn’t like free vacations? But scammers love our data more we love freebies; seniors need to double check the advertised property before signing up for any such ads.
Keeping the senior citizens into context, let’s talk about some shortcuts for elders to avoid getting scammed, but one thing is for sure, Google knows you, more than yourself.
To All Baby Boomers – Your Cyber Security is still in your Hand
Is your loved one is under threat or is susceptible to one of these scams, share them these tips to help them prevent these scams.
First, let’s deal with what older adults can do:
- If it’s a prescription drug savings on a vacation or anything that seems too good to be true, that probably is; do your research first.
- If someone is selling something and trying to get more information out of you, revert those questions to them and who they represent. If they refuse, kick them away.
- Don’t mind in consulting family members and caregivers before going through any deal on the internet.
- Never give information on an impulse unless you’re confident it’s a trusted source (like a company or doctor you’ve already consulted before).
- Avoid answering every other email and ad especially ones from unknown or unfamiliar sources.
- The government will never notify you of a late bill or owed payment on a website.
- FBI suggests you contact your doctor before conducting any health procedure or treatment.
What if my grandparent or a loved one becomes a victim or under suspicion?
Follow these steps so that an Internet scam won’t dupe the older adult in your life:
- Keep your loved ones informed about the possible scams on the Internet.
- Keep a check over your loved one’s bank accounts and retirement accounts for odd purchases or withdrawals.
- Keep visiting them to discuss their monthly prescriptions and other bills.
- If you find your loved one discussing an upcoming vacation or a good deal, ask them more information about how they got the good buy or good deal.
- Make sure your loved ones are aware of not to click any impulse buys, especially if the “deal” is ending in a few minutes.
What seniors want out of everything? A one-word answer: “convenience.”
To make your cybersecurity more convenient, allow me to brief out all the tips in a more defined manner.
Stay Safe Tips online for Seniors
When communicating with friends and foe:
- Use strong and unique passwords.
- Tweaks some privacy settings.
- Make your password longer – use your favorite childhood memory!
- Don’t post everything
- Report abuse. (How-To report is done further in this post.)
When seeking new friends and romantic partners:
- Arrange your first meeting in a public place.
- Get to know dating scams.
- Watch red flags – if a person pressuring you to leave the dating site and communicate via email or text messaging or if that person is professing instant feelings of love; leave if he/she is never available for a face-to-face meeting.
- Don’t send money – don’t be a fool like Mia’s father.
- Look for typos and other abnormalities.
When sharing pictures and views on social platforms:
- Keep it civil -it’s OK to disagree but only with respect.
- Don’t believe everything you read and never share or forward something you’re not sure about.
When shopping, charity, banking, finalizing travel itinerary online:
- Don’t click every other link.
- Use stronger passwords on such sites.
- Not all the offers are too good to be true.
- Shop only at reputable sites.
- Look for secure websites.
- Use credit cards if possible.
- Keep monitoring your financial accounts.
- Make sure you’ve researched enough before applying for anything online.
Can’t remember all these handy tips in one go? Don’t stress! These 5 essential tips would also save you from scamming threats, but others also need to be learned.
- Be smartphone savvy – Make up your mind that these smartphones track your location and can reveal information about you, including contacts. Be careful not to download any unnecessary non-reputable apps and keep your PDAs password- protected.
- Keep your devices secured and protected, using software like VPN; don’t be a fool with any VPN.
- Secure your internet router – VPN can do that for you.
- Don’t be shy in reaching out for help.
- Don’t take marketing pressures seriously; you might not need that, but marketers would hit in your right nerves.
If you find yourself in trouble, report it ASAP to these authorities.
Where to Report Online Scams?
- Federal Bureau Of Investigations (FBI)
- Securities And Exchange Commission (SEC)
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
- Better Business Bureau
- The Social Security Administration (SSA)
Any Advice for Seniors?
Mostly, seniors are self-sufficient, but with age, they need a bit of help; so many seniors entirely rely on their younger generations to help them with their finances, legal affairs, housing, taxes, and other issues. In that case, it’s helpful or sometimes necessary for caretakers to access a senior’s medical records, online bank and investment accounts, and some other online sites.
The U.S. Government’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also help seniors with their banking and finance management.
Before wishing you secure luck and long life, I would say do whatever you want, but when it comes to sharing anything online, especially your personal information; be very careful and take any family member or loved into confidence. It would help you live by your life with all your lifetime earnings.
Zubair Hussain Khan
Zubair Khan – a foodie by choice and tech enthusiast by profession. He loves to get his hands into modern technology trends and share the knowledge with everyone. He is currently working fulltime for ReviewsDir as a Digital Marketing Executive. Aside of the work life, Zubair loves to travel new places and explore nature, food is still his first love though!