Today’s seniors are more tech-savvy than ever before. Your senior loved one likely has a Facebook profile and enjoys spending time online playing games, reading news, sharing photos, and staying in touch with family and friends.
Almost 60 percent of adults over age 65 are using the Internet. But as seniors embrace technology, they can also be at greater risk for online identity theft.
Seniors are the most targeted for online scams according to the Federal Trade Commission, representing close to half of all Internet fraud complaints filed in 2013. Unfortunately, the true number of seniors who have been exploited may be much higher. Many seniors feel too embarrassed to admit to being scammed or simply don’t know where to turn for help. Scammers prey heavily on those with Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia, conning people with memory loss out of millions of dollars each year.
If your senior loved one is part of the 88 percent of older adults who use email, it’s important to learn about the dangers of phishing scams. These are a type of unsolicited email attack in which fraudsters steal and abuse seniors’ sensitive personal or financial information.
Thankfully, a little education can go a long way to keep seniors safe online and protected from email phishing crimes. Here are some tips to scam-proof your senior loved and ensure they can continue to navigate the web happily and securely.
Help Seniors Spot “Phishy” Emails
Seniors may get official-looking emails that appear to be from a legitimate company or institution, such as a bank or government agency, asking them to “update”, “verify”, or “confirm” personal information.
Cybercriminals use bait like prizes or funny videos to trick seniors into clicking on malicious links embedded in emails. The message directs them to a bogus website that appears to be real. In reality it only exists to capture personal information so fraudsters can steal it.
How do you spot an email hoax? The The Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force says to look for these red flags:
- Spelling error and poor grammar
- Requests for private information such as passwords, Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number
- Attachments that may contain viruses
- Threats that your account will be closed or suspended if you don’t respond immediately
Encourage Safe Online Behaviors
You can help protect your loved one’s financial future by reminding them about basic Internet safety. When you visit your senior loved one at their assisted living or independent living community, ask them if they have received emails from people they do not know or other unusual messages online. If your loved one has Alzheimer’s, ask a member of their dementia care team to check in on their internet activity from time to time to ensure no one is taking advantage of them.
Remind your family to only open emails from senders they recognize and to never respond to messages that ask for financial information. Installing up-to-date anti-virus software on the computer or tablet can also help.
Although identity fraud targeting older adults is on the rise, with some education from you, an older loved one can learn to spot potential scams. These simple safety precautions can ensure your senior loved one’s online experience is a safe and enjoyable one.