Cybersecurity Awareness: Internet Safety Tips for Seniors
Fraud is alive and well online, and many fraudsters regard seniors as easy prey for a quick buck. According to the Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, seniors are indeed more likely to fall victim to an online scam, with a 47% increase in fraud and identity theft involving seniors between 2019 and 2020.
Americans aged 80 and older were most likely to be targeted by swindlers, and the fallout only increases with age, with median losses of $1,300 per victim. For comparison, the median loss of people between 20 and 29 years old was only $324.
Fortunately, you can avoid these traps by following the safety tips below.
Think before you post
In a recent article entitled “Once on the Internet, Always on the Internet,” Dave Moore, a certified information systems security professional (CISSP), describes what he calls “digital permanence.” On the internet, everything is available to everyone, so it pays to use discretion. Before sharing anything, ask yourself whether this is something you would want the world to see.
A good rule of thumb: when in doubt, wait.
You can still enjoy the internet — play games, check Facebook, listen to music, watch YouTube —, but remain vigilant about where you go and what you do there. When visiting websites, keep your email address to yourself unless you are doing business. Keep your personal life private and avoid public outbursts. It’s easy to get drawn into online political drama, for example, but it’s these detailed posts full of personal commentary that scammers use to learn all about you and effectively target you.
Beware of online deception
Seniors are almost six times more likely than younger consumers to get fleeced by shady tech support companies. Because younger people are often more tech-savvy than seniors, they are more likely to spot a ripoff.
What’s more, a 2019 study revealed that seniors aged 60 and over were most likely to lose money to romantic swindles. Government imposter schemes were similarly dangerous. Seniors were also three times more likely than younger consumers to lose money on hustles involving prizes, sweepstakes, and lotteries.
Watch out for phone scams
The FTC regards the telephone the tool of choice for fraudsters targeting seniors. Older adults reported higher median losses due to phone scams than younger individuals, with seniors age 80 and over reporting median losses of $3,500. These losses were four times higher than those reported by adults ages 20–59.
The easiest way to protect yourself from phone fraud is to let calls from unfamiliar numbers go to voicemail, allowing you to screen callers before speaking to them. You can also block them if necessary and report anything fishy.
A caller with legitimate business will leave a message, and you’ll also have their number on your phone if you want to call them back.
Optimistically, seniors are getting wise to the tactics of these unscrupulous crooks. Over the last few years, older adults have become 64% more likely to file a no-loss fraud report than younger consumers.
How to fend off fraudsters
Fake emails claiming to be from legitimate enterprises will urge you to take swift action to avoid an imminent problem, like an alleged account closure. They direct you to click on a link to log in to your account or to open an attachment.
Don’t panic – as long as you don’t click or download anything or open any attachments, you’ll be fine. Report fake emails to your email service provider and delete them.