There’s a really funny series of commercials out right now for a popular car insurance company, featuring a sweet older lady who just doesn’t understand how her computer works. She gives a number of comedic examples of how “tech savvy” she thinks she is, often while her friends look on, shaking their heads.
But the reality is far less funny. Whether it’s hacking into someone’s accounts or just resorting to an age-old phishing scam, hackers and identity thieves are still seeking out senior adults as the top victims for this kind of crime? Why? That’s a complicated answer.
Only a handful of years ago, the stereotype of senior citizens and their regard for computers would include a fearful attitude towards “newfangled” technology and a firm promise never to give up their “relic” ways. But that’s obviously an unfair assessment. Many senior adults have adapted quite well to the changing technological landscape and are even early adopters of some new devices and gadgets. Think back to the commercials; it’s the woman’s own friends who are saying, “That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works!”
With this greater adoption of technology, though, criminals have quickly discovered that convincing people that their information is secure is all too easy. Would-be thieves rely on the hope that their targets don’t have the savviness to ward off viruses, malware, spyware, browser hijackers, and more. Many recent retirees, for example, individuals who may have once been avid computer users, are no longer receiving the same education and updates to their computer training and therefore may not have access to current information about new scams, new viruses, or new threats.
This makes retired adults prime subjects to fall victim to a would-be hacker.
At the same time, thieves know that older adults are in the right demographic in terms of having disposable income and for not having other commitments that might tie up that income, such as children living at home or even a mortgage payment. While we often hear about the fixed income plight of elderly citizens, it’s also true that some of their larger expenses may have been resolved at their ages, meaning the income they do have and the nest egg they’ve built up over the years is just sitting there for the taking.
The best thing older computer users can do to protect themselves is to stay current on cyber news and make themselves aware of the day-to-day threats. More importantly, though, is remembering to treat their personal information as though it was the access code to their bank accounts or the keys to their front doors. In many ways, their personal identifying information is even more valuable than their bank accounts or homes, largely because thefts in those areas are protected by regulations and by law. Always keep personal data like Social Security statements, bank and retirement account statements, and credit card statements out of the hands of the wrong people by shredding them before discarding. While online, always treat the internet as though your private information can be shared at the touch of one wrong button.
By practices safe technology use and guarding private content, adults can accomplish a lot towards keeping their information out of thieves’ hands.
If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center's Anyone3 fundraising campaign. For more information or to donate please visit http://www.idtheftcenter.org/anyone-3.