According to a Pew Research Center survey, about 66% of Americans over the age of 65 are online. They are keeping up to date with the latest news stories, staying in touch with family, getting medical information, managing appointments, renewing prescriptions, and accessing medical records. In addition, seniors are using the Internet as a way to stay in the workforce and even launch a new career or business as well as a way to make new friends and to find romantic partners through online dating.
All of these attributes are great, but there are always dangers to be aware of from malicious individuals and fraudsters. They use the Internet to scam unsuspecting users. A rule of thumb is if an offer, email, or message sound too good to be true or just seems suspicious, it probably is.
In conjunction with the normal found here, seniors should be aware of:
- Personal emergency scam: Scammers email or post social media messages that appear to be from someone you know saying they are in distress, such as having their wallet stolen or having been arrested. If you get such a message, find another way to verify if it’s true, such as reaching out directly to the person. If you get such a message from a friend, there is a good chance that their account was hacked and that it’s a criminal who is out to steal your money.
- You owe money scam: Be wary of emails that claim you owe money. If you hear from a bill collector or a government agency about money “owed” by you or a family member, don’t respond unless you are certain it’s legitimate. It’s pretty common for scammers to send “bills” to people who don’t actually owe them money.
- Online dating scam: Many people have found love via dating websites, but others have been scammed out of money by online con artists. For tips on safe online dating and a list of red flags, see “Meeting new friends and romantic partners.”
- Infected computer scam: You might get a call from “Microsoft,” saying your computer is infected or vulnerable to hacking, with an offer to fix it for you. Hang up. Microsoft and other reputable companies never make these calls. These are criminals trying to steal your money and plant viruses on your machine. Also be suspicious of any messages in email or that pop-up on your computer, in your Web browser, or on a mobile app warning you of a virus or a security risk. If you have reason to suspect that your device is at risk, consult a trusted expert but never download software or apps that you aren’t certain to come from legitimate sources.
The bottom line is to speak out and don’t be ashamed if you do get scammed and become a victim of fraudulent activities. Criminals are very good at what they do and there have been lots of very smart people who have been victimized online. If it happens to you, report it to a trusted person and, if appropriate, law enforcement. Even if you let your guard down, it’s not your fault if something bad happened to you.