Online safety tips for seniors

The Internet offers many positive benefits for seniors, including keeping them connected with family and  community, making banking and bill paying more convenient, and providing the ability to shop from the comfort of their own home during these cold winter months. On the flip side, the internet can also come with many dangers.

Did you know it is estimated that, in the United States, seniors lose $30 billion each year due to online scams, and that an estimated 954,000 seniors will have to skip a meal or more due to the financial hardships resulting from scams and caregiver abuse? (source: True Link Financial Study).

Here are a few safety tips that seniors can use to help protect themselves.

Never assume a stranger online is trustworthy.

Unless you have a real-world relationship with the person who is trying to communicate with you, it is highly likely that they are trying to scam you.

If an offer through an email sounds too good to be true, it probably is. For example, an offer or prize is one way seniors are tricked into giving out private information, wiring money to a scammer, or getting you to install malicious software on to your computer.

Never provide your sensitive information online.

Some websites that request private information are trustworthy, such as an online tax filing or banking websites. But there are many website scams designed to trick you into giving out your private information, such as your usernames and passwords.

If you have any concerns about whether you can trust an email or website, call the customer service phone number for the company or institution.

Never assume that someone who knows things about you is someone you can trust.

It is easy for scammers to get personal information about you. They do this by illegally or legally purchasing mailing lists from organizations and groups. They can also find  information about you through city, provincial, or federal government websites.

This makes it easy for someone to use information to trick you into thinking that they are someone they are not. It is important for you to always be cautious when communicating with strangers online, even if they do know information like your address, full name, the number of children you have etc.

Top scams targeting seniors

There are three primary ways that scammers will use to try to take advantage of seniors online.

Email scams

The most common type of email scam is a request for a short-term loan, either to help someone in need (the Nigerian Prince Scam is a good example), or with the promise of a big return on your money.

Scammers create email messages and websites that look almost 100 per cent legitimate. This usually comes in the form of a trusted banking or government establishment. Although the email or website might look valid, a government or banking representative will never ask you for your username and password.

This type of scam can also be used to gain access to your other online accounts, such as social media or email logins.

Website pop-up ads and warnings

Scammers will use either congratulatory or frightening message or pop-up to encourage you to click links.

Here are a few examples:

  1. Congratulations! You’ve Won a Prize: In this scam, a website is set up by a scammer. When you visit that site , it will notify you that you’ve won a prize. Similar to the Nigerian Prince Scam, the scammers might request a down payment to secure your prize, or they might ask for your banking information so that they can deposit your winnings.
  2. Warning! Install Required Security Software: In this scam, the page warns that your computer is compromised and that you must immediately install their software. Large companies such as Microsoft or Apple do not notify you of security issues via pop-ups.

In either case, the messages are malicious, and someone is trying to scam you.

Impersonation in social media and online dating sites

Often scammers use social media and dating sites to befriend you or even to claim that they actually know you. They will gather information about you, and use that information to gain your trust. The Grandparent Scam is a great example, this scam usually involves a phone call from someone who pretends to be your grandchild.

Catfishing is a romance scam. Scammers commonly target seniors through online dating sites, pretending to be an interested suitor. They will use someone else’s images,  and create a fake online profile to communicate with you as that person.

If you have been dating someone online, but have never met then in person, never send money or share personal information.

To learn more about common scams against seniors, check out the following links:

Better Business Bureau’s Top Ten Scams

Scams and frauds from the RCMP

Canadian Anit-Fraud Centre

This article has been adapted from an article originally published by H&H Total Care. To view H&H properties in your community, click here.

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