Have you ever gotten an email in your inbox with a strange subject line and an unknown sender? Chances are, if you receive something that looks strange, you don’t think twice about deleting it. However, your older loved one might not be as likely to move that message to their online trash bin. The same goes for strange phone calls. Scams targeting seniors are more successful than scams targeting their younger counterparts, which is why you and your loved one should brush up on online safety tips for seniors that can reduce their risk of fraud.
Prevalence of Senior Scams
Unfortunately, senior citizen scams rise each year in the United States. In 2021, older Americans are reported to have lost a total of $3 billion to scams targeting seniors. This is a 60% increase since 2020, according to the FBI. Though $3 billion sounds like a great deal of money to lose — and it is — there are assumptions that the actual number is higher. Seniors who have fallen for a scam don’t always reliably report it to their family members or law enforcement because they feel ashamed that they fell for it.
1. Begin With Digital Responsibility
Older adults didn’t grow up with easy access to technology, let alone the internet. This just means that they may not have the knowledge to keep themselves safe in the digital world. Begin fostering that knowledge by offering to sign them up for an online safety class at their local senior center or library. Not only will they have the chance to meet new people there, but they will also receive good information about realistic ways they can stay safe.
2. Check Emails Together
If you are able to, and if your parent is up for it, consider checking their emails together. This way, you can be there if they have questions as well as watch what emails they are clicking on and which they are recognizing as spam and moving to the trash bin. Be honest about your intentions by telling your loved one that internet scammers are getting better at targeting older adults specifically and you want to be sure you can keep them safe.
3. Be Wary of Urgency
The National Council on Aging reports that scammers rely on urgency. They want the victim to feel that they must make a decision as quickly as possible or dire consequences will follow. In contrast, other correspondence from family members or friends is never rooted in this pushy feeling. If something is making you feel pressured for a quick response, it could be a scam.
4. Click With Caution
Phishing scams are easy to fall for whether or not you are an older adult. It’s good general practice to be wary about any link within an email that someone you don’t know personally sent you.
5. Keep Your Personal Information Close
Online scammers are often searching for personal information they can use. This can include any account numbers, Medicaid numbers, passwords, and other self-identifying information such as answers to personal security questions. Never give away this information. If someone reaches out looking for this information, contact the institution itself via phone to ensure it is they who are asking for it.
6. Strengthen Your Passwords
Internet safety tips for seniors always preach the importance of strong passwords. Having a strong password is a crucial internet safety step for any of us. Try using Google for strong password suggestions and never use the same password for more than one account. Keep up with your loved one’s passwords by using a password management service that you can both access.
7. Know What Scams Targeting Senior Citizens Are Happening Most Often
Senior scams can be trendy, meaning that similar scams will happen across the country for weeks or months at a time before a new scam pops up. You can find popular scams, such as the grandparent scam or tech support scams, by visiting your local police department’s senior service website. You can also find popular scams at the website of the Office for Victims of Crime.
8. Keep Up With Strange Charges or Account Changes
If you have access to your loved one’s bank account, make it a habit to check in once a month, especially during the holiday season. Look for strange withdrawals or charges from an unknown entity. In many cases, older adults don’t report fraud until they have spent a lot of their money. You can keep up with their account and watch for suspicious activity in order to stop any fraud before it gets worse.
9. Stop the Stigma of Reporting
There are certainly feelings of shame that go along with getting scammed. Be sure you are having regular conversations with your loved one about the importance of reporting scams and that there is no shame in it. In fact, reporting attempted fraud can save another senior from going through the same thing.
10. Keep Up With Scam Prevention Best Practices
Scammers are always changing their approach, which means that by the time you or your loved one is used to looking for certain strange emails, there will be new ones in your inbox taking a different approach. Staying informed about scam prevention is a constant effort.
Let us help! Join us for our webinar, Senior Living LIVE! Outsmart the Scammers. You’ll learn what to watch for, what’s trending with scams right now, and more ways to keep yourself and your loved one safe.