Top Cyber Scams Targeting the Elderly

Scams targeting elderly people are, unfortunately, some of the most common and successful ones. According to the American Journal of Public Health, in the US, approximately 5% of the elderly population falls victim to some type of scam every year. Scammers often choose seniors as their victims, especially in the online environment, as they are less aware of dangers and don’t use cybersecurity measures (antivirus, strong passwords, etc.) Here are some of the top cyber scams that target the elderly. Knowing them is the first step in being able to avoid them. 

Lottery or Special Prize Scams

Many internet scams are disguised as prizes. These scams take advantage of people’s enthusiasm, especially among the elderly who may be less reluctant to click a button that says ‘you’ve won’. Many of these scams are justified by certain milestones, for example, visitor number 1,000,000 who reaches a website is entitled to a prize. Other ads simply state that you’re a random lucky winner. Whatever the case may be, it’s never a good idea to click on an ad or link that promises a prize for something you’ve never participated in. Once you try to get the alleged prize, different things can happen, you can download a piece of malware on your computer or be asked to provide your personal and bank information, both of which may enable hackers to carry out cyber fraud. 

Phishing Emails

This type of evergreen scam targets people of all ages. However, seniors might be more at risk, especially if they don’t use their email very often. A phishing email can take different forms. It can be disguised as an offer from a company, an order confirmation, an investment opportunity, or even a newsletter. These emails either ask for your personal information directly, in order to enable you to access the product they promise or contain a link or attachment you have to click on to learn more about the offering. Once you click on that link or attachment, you download malware that can damage your computer or ransom ware that could access sensitive information you store on your PC such as bank account information, insurance information, tax files, etc. 

Counterfeit Prescription Drugs 

Many seniors need treatments for chronic diseases and scammers even take advantage of this situation to prey on them. Counterfeit prescription drugs are the bait scammers use to convince seniors they can help them get the drugs they need at lower prices. Sometimes, those who sign-up for the deal and pay for their medicine don’t get anything in return. Sometimes, they get placebo pills, which is quite dangerous given that many seniors’ lives literally depend on the pills they take daily. Scammers also use these schemes to get insurance numbers or personal information. 

Social Security Impersonation Scams 

This scam is taking advantage of people who might not be aware of how the Social Security Administration (SSA) works. Fraudsters send emails impersonating employees of the SSA and say that the person has a problem with their social security number, for example, it was suspended. Another tactic is to tell victims they have information about their new security card. In order to find out more, scammers say they need to verify some information and ask for the victim to provide their name, social security number, or other information. 

Scams involving a security card usually aim to persuade people to provide their bank info or even make a wire transfer for the alleged new card. To avoid these scams, it’s important to remember that the SSA will never email or call you, nor will it ask for a fee for a social security card. To understand whether you’re dealing with a scam or not, seniors can call the SSA Inspector General. 

Dating App Scams 

Unfortunately, many seniors are alone and vulnerable precisely for this reason. Nowadays, it is not uncommon for the elderly to use dating apps too. Scammers often create fake profiles on these apps and start chatting with seniors. After gaining their trust, they ask for money for different reasons. Another scam carried out through dating apps is asking people to invest money in some type of safe stock that promises high returns. No matter what a potential partner you’ve met on an app says, if you’ve never talked with them in person, transferring money is not a good idea. 

There are many different types of cyber scams targeting the elderly. To avoid them, the general rule is the same – be wary when someone you don’t know asks for your personal or bank details or for money over the internet. 

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