Keeping Seniors CyberSafe

It’s Older Americans Month, a time to pay close attention to the unique contributions and complex needs of our aging populations.

One of the ways that “tech experts” observe this national commemoration is with a renewed focus on fighting back against elder scams and fraud.Unfortunately, crimes that affect the elderly continue to be a growing problem, and scams and frauds are among some of the most common. It’s important to ensure that our seniors are armed with the information they need to spot a potential crime, avoid the snare, and take action to prevent and report it.

1. Social Media

Seniors are using social media now more than ever before, and criminals are ready to take advantage of that. While these online interactions are fantastic for older adults—allowing them to stay connected and engaged while learning new tech skills—they also create a fresh crop of potential victims to fall for internet scams.

2. Email Security

Today’s older American may have had the good fortune of taking typing on an electric typewriter versus a manual one, and can easily remember sending letters via a ten cent stamp. But they’ve adapted to email as not just a form of social communication but for actual business-related communication as well. Unfortunately, emailed scams and malicious software are rampant, and the criminals who send them are getting more sophisticated every day.

3. Phishing Scams

When criminals cast their virtual nets, they’re hoping that their victims don’t know enough about the digital age to smell a scam. That’s why some victims have been tricked into paying phony IRS fees with iTunes gift cards, and why lonely computer users have wired money to their online “loved ones” through untraceable money transfers. They take the bait the scammers are holding out without really asking themselves what a Bitcoin is or why someone would want it.

4. Phone Scams

You might not think of a basic telephone when you think of high-tech scams, but in fact, some of the hottest technology available to a scammer is used for committing phone crimes. Unlike bygone eras for tricking someone over the phone, today’s scammer can use autodial software that makes thousands of calls a day for them, relying on random combinations of numbers instead of phone lists. They can even task the software with interacting with the victim who answers before stepping in and taking over the call, meaning they don’t have to waste their time on hangups. There is even software that lets them “mask” their phone number, changing it on the victim’s caller ID to look like someone else’s number.

5. Face-to-Face Fraud

Older adults would do well to remember that the “old school” methods of scams and fraud haven’t gone away. In some ways, they’re just as dangerous now since high-tech crimes seem to get all the attention. Scammers who show up on your doorstep can do just as much harm as those who attack from behind a computer screen.

It’s important for all citizens to stay on top of the latest scams, fraud, and identity theft news in order to protect themselves. Spotting a crime before it can do any damage is the best bet, and being able to warn the people you care about can help others reduce their risk of becoming a victim.


If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App.

Read next: New Changes to Medicare Cards Can Leave The Door Open To Scammers

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