Ensuring Online Safety for Seniors

Research shows that 75% of people 65 and older use the internet, but are they using it safely? According to the FBI, seniors are scammed out of around 3 billion dollars annually — many through online scams.

There are numerous stories of seniors being defrauded out of their life savings, retirement funds, and social security, which is devastating for both them and their families. Seniors often have large amounts of easily accessible assets meant to see them through their golden years and may not be as digitally savvy, making them prime targets for scammers.

But everything is online nowadays — entertainment, social engagement, shopping, information — so how do you ensure that your senior loved ones use the internet safely and responsibly?

Understanding Online Scams

The first step in safeguarding seniors online is to educate them about common scams. Teach them to be skeptical of any email that asks for personal details or financial information, and remind them that legitimate organizations will never ask for sensitive information via email.

Phishing Scams

Phishing scams are one of the most common online threats. These scams typically involve emails or messages that look like they’re from legitimate organizations, like banks or government agencies. The goal is to trick the recipient into revealing sensitive information like their social security number, passwords, or bank account details.

Tip: Advise your loved ones to verify the sender’s email address and look for suspicious signs like poor grammar or odd phrasing. If they receive a questionable email, urge them to look up the direct number for the organization on their website and call it to verify the email’s authenticity.

Lottery or Sweepstakes Scams

These scams lure people in with false promises of a large financial windfall, like a lottery win or unexpected inheritance. The scammers will ask for an upfront fee or personal information to claim the supposed prize, or they’ll state that the recipient just needs to pay the taxes on the money before it can be released.

Tip: Remind seniors that legitimate lotteries or sweepstakes don’t require winners to pay fees upfront to claim their prizes and that any inheritance information will be relayed through an official notification directly from a law office or the executor of the will.

Tech Support Scams

In tech support scams, fraudsters pose as tech support representatives from well-known companies, like Microsoft or Apple, claiming that they have detected a virus or issue with the victim’s computer. They may ask for remote access to the device or for payment to “fix” the non-existent problem.

Tip: Make sure your loved one is aware that they should never give remote access to their computer unless they initiated the contact with a verified service provider. You should also discuss the danger of things like pop-ups that claim viruses or malware have been detected on their computer.

Romance Scams

In 2022 alone, nearly 70,000 people reported falling victim to a romance scam, resulting in $1.3 billion in losses. With romance scams, scammers create fake profiles on dating sites or social media to lure in their victims.

These scams can range from simple extortion (blackmailing the victim by threatening to release compromising pictures) to impressively complex deceptions designed to gain the victim’s trust and convince them that the relationship is real. Once they’ve reeled their victim in, the scammer will start talking about their financial issues or investment opportunities, attempting to convince the victim to send them money.

Tip: Caution seniors against sending money or sharing financial information with someone they’ve only met online. These scammers can be incredibly manipulative and use advanced psychological tactics, so make sure they’re aware of the common lies that romance scammers use.

Investment Scams

These scams promise high returns for non-existent opportunities. Victims are enticed to invest in precious metals, rare coins, cryptocurrencies, or even blatant pyramid schemes, with the scammer claiming that it’s a risk-free investment that will yield big results.

Tip: Remind seniors that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and that legitimate investments take place through financial institutions, not individuals. Advise them to consult with a trusted financial advisor, knowledgeable family member, or banker before making any investments.

Social Media Safety

Social media platforms are a great way for seniors to stay connected with family and friends, but they can also be breeding grounds for scams and misinformation. Make sure your senior loved ones have adjusted their privacy settings to limit who can view their profiles and posts.

You should also advise them to be cautious about accepting friend requests or opening messages from people they don’t know, and make sure they know to avoid sharing personal information like their address or phone number online.

Password Hygiene

Most of us are guilty of reusing login info, writing it down in plain view, or choosing simple, easy-to-remember passwords. But strong passwords are a key part of online safety. Explain to your loved one the importance of using a different complex password for each account and why they should avoid using easily guessable passwords like birthdays or names.

One of the simplest ways to make sure your loved one is practicing good password hygiene is to set them up with a trusted password manager, like NordPass or 1Password. These tools can help them keep track of all their passwords securely.

Ensuring Senior Safety Online and Off

Unfortunately, scammers are not going away any time soon, so it’s up to us to make sure that our senior loved ones are aware of the latest scams and understand how to avoid them. But online safety is only part of the equation.

At Right Hand Care, we’re committed to fostering safe, healthy environments for seniors. With our affordable in-home care services, you can have peace of mind and confidence that your senior loved one is safe and cared for, even when you can’t be there.

For more information on our at-home senior care services or to set up a care plan, contact us today.

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