Grandparents Day is just around the corner, so if you’re looking for a way to celebrate and honor the loving and kind individuals who make our lives better, think about how you can protect them from unscrupulous cybercriminals who increasingly target seniors.
Elder fraud cost Americans over the age of 60 more than $3.1 billion in 2022, an 84% increase in losses from 2021, according to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). While the losses per victim averaged around $35,101, the FBI also noted losses of over $100,00 for every 5,456 elderly citizens who fell victim to fraudsters last year.
Most of the victims were targeted by tech support scams (17,810 reports), non-payment/non-delivery (7,985 reports), personal data breaches (7,849 reports) and confidence/romance swindles (7,166 reports).
However, the above list is heavily populated with various other internet-enabled crimes, including identity theft, extortion, bogus investment opportunities, government impersonation, advance fee scams and credit card fraud targeting elderly citizens.
On top of the obvious devastating financial impact, victims often lose their overall sense of wellbeing and can suffer physical and mental issues including insomnia, depression and anxiety.
You can help your grandparents become more cyber-confident and heal any emotional scars by talking about the latest online scams and sharing tips on how they can defend their identity and money.
Anyone can fall victim to cybercriminals. We’ve boiled down some of the most common red flags, scams and security tips that you can share with your loved ones:
The most common scams include:
- Tech support scams – scammers posing as tech support agents target elderly consumers with deceptive phone calls, texts, emails or online pop-ups. The malicious individuals often cite some security issues or problems with their target’s device and ask for personal information and money or convince you to give them remote access to your computer.
- Romance scams – Seniors are also targeted with romance scams via social media or even dating apps. Victims often build an emotional connection with the fraudster who won’t hesitate to ask for financial help while always making up excuses for not meeting with them in person. The lies these romance scammers tell targets may include a health emergency, a crisis in the family, a car or legal trouble.
- The dreaded grandparent scam – some cybercriminals pose as a grandchild or family member in a dire situation (car accident or legal trouble). The scammers research their victims and call them to ask for money.
- Government impersonation scams - Fraudsters also have a knack for impersonating government agencies, including the IRS, FBI, DOJ or Medicare, to steal information and money. These con artists may contact seniors via phone, email or text and use threats of fines, jail time, and deportation to convince victims to make payments and provide sensitive data.
- Sweepstakes and giveaway scams. Emails, texts and websites promising freebies, great prizes or lottery winnings in exchange for personal info, credit card details and payments for shipping or processing fees are always a scam.
- Investment scams – In this type of fraud, scammers target seniors with help to earn more money via real estate investments and crypto with phony promises of risk-free and guaranteed returns.
Here are red flags that your grandparents are being financially exploited:
- Their accounts show suspicious withdrawals and they might be missing debit or credit cards
- They receive bills for services they don’t recognize
- They are locked out of their accounts
- Their assets are transferred to accounts you don’t recognize
- They have a secret relationship with someone online who convinces them to restrict communication with friends and family
Here’s a helpful reminder of 10 security tips you can share with your grandparents to help keep them safe:
- Never click links or attachments received from unknown senders or unsolicited correspondence
- Ensure that your grandparents' devices are up to date with the latest security patches
- Install a security solution on their PC and mobile device to help protect against malware, fraudulent websites and other e-threats
- Remind them to never send money to people who say they represent a government agency or a service provider. Official government officials will never ask for payment via email, text or phone and never threaten jail time unless payment is made
- They should immediately stop communicating with people they meet online who ask them to send money, transfer assets, change their wills or invest in crypto
- Avoid sharing personal information on social media or sensitive details that could be used to defraud them. Make privacy suggestions such as making the account private
- Advise them to use unique passwords and enable two-factor authentication for their accounts
- Advise to always research a business, calling an official number or a trusted member of the family, whenever they have doubts about the validity of a message
- If you're not sure if an online message is actually from a particular business, such as a bank, consider calling their official number or visiting a local branch.
- Immediately report scams and fraudulent activity to the FTC or by calling 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357), and call the National Elder Fraud Hotline for further assistance.
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