WEB OF DECEIT
Why are seniors targeted?
They’re savers: Fraudsters assume seniors have lots of money sitting in their accounts.
It’s a low-risk crime: Scams on seniors often go unreported or can be difficult to prosecute.
SENIORS’ INTERNET UNFAMILIARITY IS TARGETED BY:
Fake IRS email scams
Bogus Financial Institution “verify information” messages
Virus spread via pop-up windows
WHAT ARE THOSE MOST COMMON ONLINE SCAMS?
Grandparents are targeted because they’re protective and want to help those they love, when they are in a crisis. A grandparent scam could look like this:
- A con artist emails you, posing as distressed relative in distress
- They tell a variation of a “Grandma, it’s me” story
- They describe their dire problem (car crash, arrest, need a lawyer, etc.)
- The senior is asked to send money for expenses to get out of trouble
THE CON ARTIST THEN SAYS “DON’T TELL ANYONE!”
What to watch for: Never pay anything in this situation. A strong sign of fraud is being asked to pay with a card such as an iTunes or MoneyPak card, which don’t offer the protection of a credit card.
What to do: Don’t respond to the email. Delete it. Call your family and check that they’re ok. Report it to the proper governmental authorities including the Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov) or the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov).
When using the computer, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a real warning and a fake one. A computer warning scam can happen like this:
- You’re using the internet and a window pops up out of nowhere
- It looks like a “computer hack” or “virus” warning
- It uses the name of a computer company such as Apple or Microsoft
- It says you need to download something to “fix” a computer issue
- It’s a virus or program designed to steal your information
You punch in your account information and your savings get drained
What to watch for: Computer companies don’t usually approach consumers to offer support — it’s us who go to them.
IF A COMPUTER COMPANY CONTACTS YOU ON THE INTERNET — IT IS PROBABLY A SCAM.
What to do: Close the pop-up window — do not open it and absolutely do not enter your bank account details. If you notice further similar windows, have a family member or trusted computer repair store run a check or install virus protection.
Phonies offer a free security check over the phone to get you to give them remote access to your computer for a supposed diagnosis and fix. They gain access, add software and steal from your accounts.
Who wouldn’t be excited to hear they’ve won the lottery? Scammers recognize the lure of a lottery win, and turn it into online scams.
HOW DO LOTTERY SCAMMERS TARGET SENIORS ONLINE?
What to watch out for: This is a common scam. Be wary of any email that mentions a lottery win. These scams often claim you have won a foreign lottery.
What to do:
Remember, the odds of winning the lottery are tiny. Delete the email in question. Report it to the proper governmental authorities including the Internet Crime Complaint Center or the Federal Trade Commission.
Seniors are often targeted because of their generosity and kind-heartedness. That’s what makes scammers pose as a charity – to target elderly people online. Here is how they often attempt to carry out such an act:
- A natural disaster happens
- Fake charities send out emails to you, asking for a donation
- They pose as a legitimate charity, or make up their own identity
- They play on your emotions — perhaps saying children need your help
- There is no apparent identification or authorization
- You pay using your credit card, but your bank account is then drained
Once you have donated to a nonprofit, it is likely that they will contact you through email to ask for continued support. Avoid any charity or fundraiser that refuses to provide detailed information about its identity, mission, costs, and how the donation will be used.
Here’s how to avoid a charity scam:
- Beware of any charity that asks you to send money overseas
- Delete emails with attachments — they probably are not real
- Investigate groups that make pleas over social media
- Criminals wait for disasters such as Hurricane Harvey and other natural devastations to set up websites asking for money. Only use authorized sites if you choose to donate.
Do your research and don’t take an email request on face value or make a hurried decision. Ask family members for advice if you find something online about a charity you might like to support. Don’t support any charity by responding to a random email from an unknown source.
Here are some symptoms fraud victims can show:
- There are unusual changes in the person’s accounts, including atypical withdrawals, new people added, or sudden card use.
- The senior suddenly appears confused, unkempt, and afraid.
- Utility, rent, mortgage, medical, or other bills are unpaid.
- A caregiver won’t allow others access to the senior.
- There are piled up sweepstakes mailings, magazine subscriptions, or “free gifts,” which means they may be on “sucker lists.”
You should feel safe on the internet.
The internet need not be a threatening environment if you know what to look for, and don’t offer any personal information to unknown sources. Using only authorized sites, doing some research, and avoiding engagement with dubious emails and pop-ups will ensure you’ll stay perfectly safe from scammers.
Disclosure: The recommendations in this article are suggestions only, and are not to be taken as surefire solutions. Please know that when on the internet you are at your own risk.