Online scams targeting seniors have become increasingly common. In the year 2020 alone, nearly $1 billion was stolen from adults aged 60 and over. Fortunately, if you can spot the warning signs of common scams, you can avoid becoming another statistic. Here’s what you need to know about how to avoid scams online.
Why Are Seniors Targeted By Scammers?
Seniors are often targeted by scammers due to the assumption that older adults have more money saved. Seniors also have access to Medicare and Social Security funds that often make them the target of healthcare or Social Security fraud scams. Additionally, scammers often presume seniors lack technological knowhow, meaning more scams targeting seniors may originate online.
Why Should Seniors Care About Online Security?
Even seniors who don’t go online frequently should have a good knowledge of internet safety. This can prevent identity theft, undue financial stress and unnecessary time spent remedying the situation. With a few simple tools and precautions, however, seniors can enjoy all of the convenience, entertainment and social opportunities available online.
What Are Common Scams Targeting Seniors?
Scams targeting seniors can take many forms. However, some of the most popular current scams include:
- Charity scams. Older adults looking to do good in the world are often targeted by scammers who may set up fake fundraisers or even entire fake charities to receive illicit donations.
- Contest scams. Often taking the form of a sweepstakes or lottery “win,” scammers tell targets they’ve won a prize but need to make a payment to claim it, usually under the guise of a processing fee or tax bill. The payment is made, but no prize is delivered.
- Healthcare or Medicare fraud. Scammers may impersonate a Medicare official, health care provider or insurance agent. From there, they convince seniors to provide sensitive health or financial information which can then be used to create false claims, resold or otherwise used maliciously.
- Investment schemes. Older adults and retired seniors are often looking for the best ways to manage money during retirement. This makes them a target for unscrupulous parties who make false promises of high returns on investments, such as with a pyramid scheme.
- Malware and ransomware scams. These scams install harmful programs on a user’s computer to steal information, allow hackers access or lock out the computer’s owner until a payment is made.
- Relationship scams. Older adults looking for companionship are often the target for relationship scams, which are more common than ever. Fraudsters posing as potential friends or suitors ask for money in the form of cash, wire transfers or even gift cards only to disappear after receiving a payment.
How Can I Spot a Scam?
While the list above highlights some of the most common scams targeting seniors, it is far from complete. However, nearly all scams seek one of two outcomes:
- The scammer is trying to collect sensitive personal information.
- The scammer is attempting to collect money through dishonest means.
Though the methods used in pursuit of these ends can employ kindness, sympathy or even harassment and bullying, the goals are almost universally the same. Any scenario where personal information or money is requested should be approached with caution.
How Can Older Adults Stay Safe Online?
Knowing that these are the primary goals of scammers, here are some of the steps you can take to avoid becoming the victim of a scam:
- Always verify sources of emails, texts and other communications before opening and responding.
- Be suspicious when asked for sensitive information by any source other than a trusted professional such as your healthcare provider.
- Never send payments to sources you do not know, including using payment methods such as wire transfers, reloadable money cards or store gift cards.
- Understand that not everyone online is who they say they are, and that fake online profiles are common on social media, dating sites and other internet locations.
- Never be afraid to ask for help if you’ve been victimized, because only by recruiting trusted friends, family and law enforcement can you help stop scammers.
Explore the Benefits of Life at Newcastle Place
The key to safety both online and off is being surrounded by a community you can trust. At Newcastle Place, our Wisconsin community can be just that for seniors looking for the ideal retirement lifestyle.
With superb services, delectable dining and exceptional wellness options, you’ll have everything you need to make the most of your retirement years. If you’d like to learn more about everything available at Newcastle Place, contact us and a member of our team can answer any questions you may have.