Holiday Shopping: Online Fraud Targets Elderly
Many elderly experience some form of loneliness or isolation. This is especially prevalent during the holidays. The internet can become a social outlet for them. But they are often not aware of the highly sophisticated attacks found online.
Elderly people are new to the online world and associated technology. As such they have not developed the security instincts of younger more savvy internet users. One of the problems is common among the young and especially dangerous to the elderly and that is an unwillingness to use complex passwords. Take the time to teach them how to create complex passwords or create it for them. Teach them to use a password manager or keep a record of those passwords in a safe place.
Elderly people can be are more polite to strangers. This is a vulnerability for cyber criminals who often use this against them. Knowing this we need to instill a little bit of cyber awareness to help them avoid becoming victims to common forms of cyber attacks.
Let them know not to share information with those nice people at the mall now matter how nice the gift, prize or discount. This is often the first step in a phishing attack. A old person may not know this.
This is one of the most common attacks that target the elderly. These older people are not aware of some the tactics used to steal their information or corrupt their computers. Take the time to teach the senior people in your life about suspicious emails or fake website that collect information. Advise them to deny any information to websites that request personal information like date of birth or Social Security number. If they are not aware of the sender then delete the email. Advise them to avoid clicking on things that may be of interest to them until they can research the company or websites. Advise them on the use of anti-virus applications and give them a short course in online shopping. Make sure they understand that banks and credit card companies do not ask for information via email. And if they receive such an email, or phone call, to contact their bank directly.
As we have said before loneliness can be a real problem for the elderly. One of the biggest scams is romance scams. And the elderly can be especially vulnerable. Make sure they are aware of this. Allow them their privacy but let them know that not everything they read in a personal ad is true and the person may be a criminal. Remind them to not give up too much information about themselves. This includes where they live, if they live alone or their source or amount of income. Do not meet strangers alone and do not send money or even offer to help someone out financially. If they ask for money then break off contact. Don’t friend strangers on social media. Facebook and other social media sites can be a gold mine of information that exposes other family members and friends.
The holiday is the prime time for charity scams. Elderly people can be suckers for a heartbreaking story. Advise your loved one to donate through well known charities. If a charity calls on the phone then hang up. This is a common tactic during the holidays. Do not donate through email solicitations. Make sure they are aware of the sheer number of scams during the holidays.
These are probably the hardest to spot and avoid for the elderly. Fake e-commerce websites are made to prey on the vulnerable elderly who may not know how clever they can be. Ordering online could mean there is a chance that the product may not be delivered, it might come with hidden charges or the credit card information is stolen. Checking if the website is legitimate can be a valuable skill. One way to do this is to use a website checker like Scamvoid.net or URLvoid.com. Show some love and teach them to use these tools to protect themselves. There are agencies such as Better Business Bureau which list all genuine online businesses.
Identity theft can be a terrifying to an elderly person. They may not understand what is happening to them or how to deal with it. This is another reason to teach them to protect personal information especially their Social Security number, date of birth and other identifiable information. Let them know how valuable this data and how it can be used. A great gift for an elderly person is a document shredder. Criminals will steal trash bags looking for valuable documents carelessly thrown in the trash. This includes bank statements, medical information and household bills.
The Answer is NO!
Finally, teach the elderly in your life to say NO! NO! to charities. NO! to anyone on the phone no matter how threatening. NO! to email requests for information. NO! to social media friends they have never met or do not know personally. NO! to online Casanovas! Teach them the dangers of online shopping. NO! NO! NO!
Please don’t let the senior citizen on your life get ripped off this holiday season. You can do something about it before it happens. Make this a great and safe holiday for them.
Now You Know
See also: 3 Internet Scams Targeting Senior and How to Avoid Them.