Internet Safety for Seniors: Protect From Online Fraud

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In this guide, you’ll find facts and recommendations updated to 2021 about internet safety for seniors.

From our space at vpnAlert, we decided to do extensive research on online fraud to help people’s cybersecurity education and raise awareness.

We gathered the latest tips, statistics, and resources from authoritative organizations worldwide for online security for seniors.

Check the last sections for actionable recommendations to help protect our loved older adults.

internet safety for seniors

Protected Seniors From Online Frauds: The Best Practices

The Internet is an awesome place to keep in touch with your family, to look at the photos of your grandchild, and to plan your next travel destination.

To enjoy all that and more, you need to learn how to protect yourself from online scams.

Although I wrote all recommendations thinking of elderly people, they’re handy for people in any age group.

If you don’t have time to read it all, check the brief video with some key concepts below:

Here’s a list of the best tips for internet safety for seniors.

best practices for seniors to avoid online fraud

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Be Skeptical

When you’re talking with someone face-to-face, you usually don’t need to verify the person’s identity.

Being an empathetic person, you may even know what the other person is feeling by looking in their eyes.

But when you’re communicating via the Internet, suddenly, what we can frequently take for granted in person, isn’t anymore.

A criminal can impersonate your boss, your friend, or your grandchild.

Don’t trust someone over email or online chat just because they know personal information about you.

It’s easy to do some internet research and gather data about you or your relatives.

On the same line, be wary of any unlikely event or offer that’s exaggeratedly good.

For example, if you receive an email saying you won the lottery, don’t trust it at first.

Remember that the odds of winning the lottery are around 1 in 14,000,000.

What are the odds if you didn’t even play?

Even if you’re experienced and skeptical, some fraud is tricky to spot.

For example, I’ve seen scams containing text that warns you against fraud and, recently, a lot related to the pandemic.

It’s hard to achieve perfect security, but you can learn to be a more difficult target.

fraud message

Spotting an Email Scam

Check for these red flags in your emails to detect fraudsters’ texts!

  • Errors in spelling and/or grammar
  • An unusual style of writing
  • Requests for personal information. Genuine organizations will never ask you for that
  • Threats that unless you act immediately, a deal will expire or your account will be closed
  • Generic forms like “Dear Customer” instead of your name could be a red flag
  • A strange/unknown email address

Double-Check

Always confirm someone’s identity, especially if they ask you to send money.

The person contacting you through email or social media maybe isn’t who they claim to be.

For example, a hacker could be using the account of one of your friends to impersonate him/her.

How to confirm your sender’s identity?

Send him/her a message on other media, call them, or ask something only that person would know.

The same principle applies to any situation:

  • If an email from your bank arrives, confirm the address belongs to your bank service.
  • On social media, don’t believe everything you read. Only forward or share content after fact-checking.
  • Are you planning to donate to a worthy cause? To reserve a travel tour through a new agency? Or to buy a useful product in an unknown marketplace? First, do some research to check if they’re trustworthy.

Lookup on Google, on their official websites, social media, and forums.

If, after the research, you’re still in doubt, ask a friend or family for advice.

Breathe. Think Before You Act. There’s No Rush

Fraudsters will hurry you to make the wrong decision.

For example:

  • They may write you an email with an urgent status, asking you to reply immediately.
  • An impostor may ask you to send money quickly because a problem needs to be solved now.
  • A notification may pop up when visiting a website, saying that you need an urgent update.
email scam

Clicking a malicious link can give attackers access to your accounts.

Giving them your personal information can expose you to other frauds, like identity theft.

Avoid the pressure of buying unnecessary stuff too.

You may receive a pop-up ad saying there’s a special offer for you ending in the next 24 hours, or even a legitimate merchant may try to push you.

Don’t buy equipment or services you don’t need.

Be Careful With What You Share

Limit the information you share.

Especially your financial details!

Attackers may use your data to steal your identity and commit fraud in your name.

Or they could use it to try to trick you by impersonating someone you trust.

Let’s see how to prevent it in different scenarios:

  • Social media. You can adjust the privacy settings on your account to limit who can see your information. Here’s a great and brief video with social media security tips.
  • Emails and messenger applications. Banks, health, or government institutions won’t use that media to ask for personal details. Remember, you can always check by calling the institution’s official number.
  • Unless you’re sure it’s a legitimate site, avoid providing any personal information. Use official websites and reputable online marketplaces.
    Know which kind of data is usually asked by which type of institution. For example, financial institutions may ask for your date of birth. Online merchants may need your credit card numbers.

Additionally, be aware that many websites will collect your data to, for example, sell it to the ads industry.

Before posting or using any service, it’s good to read their privacy policies and settings.

We’ll return to this topic when talking about the recommended browser settings.

Not Sharing Your Personal Information on the Web Isn’t Enough!

A common myth is that if you don’t use a computer or share any personal information, you aren’t exposed online.

Wrong.

You aren’t the only one who could have put your data online! 

Some examples:

  • Publicly available government records will show if you own a home, vote, have a criminal record, etc.
  • Your home is listed online, and its image is available through any internet mapping service.
  • There’s a high probability your phone number is in a phone book. Thereby it’s online.
  • Did you donate to a charity? If you didn’t do it anonymously, the charity’s website probably mentions you in a thanks message.
  • If you volunteer, belong to a sports group or institution, participate in competitions, etc., at least your name appears on their website.
  • Your grandchild or a friend may have posted something about you on their blog or social media.
  • If one of your relatives likes genealogy and did research, your name and your relatives’ names are likely online.

Check it by Googling your name and/or some of your personal information!

Keep Your Device’s System and Applications Up to Date

Outdated software is usually vulnerable.

Attackers may be able to hack it, compromising your personal information.

You’ll receive a notification in your app or system when a new update is available.

Check it’s legit!

A pop-up text prompting for installing a new security update or antivirus app when you visit a new website is likely malware.

system warning malware

It can be annoying to wait for software updates to finish downloading (especially on Windows), but it’s the best for your security.

Use a Password Manager and Biometric Authentication Methods

A password manager can create, store, and remember secure passwords for you when you’re accessing a login portal.

Using your biometric data for authentication is easy, secure, and you don’t need to remember anything.

These are some of the reasons why creating passwords by yourself is not a good idea:

  • Human-generated passwords tend to be easy to predict or hard to remember if too complex.
  • It’s difficult to remember all your passwords for different services. Thereby, you may be tempted to repeat them. You should never reuse passwords! That exposes you to credentials stuffing. In plain words, an attacker using your credentials in one service could break into other accounts belonging to you.
  • There are plenty of automated tools to help crack your account’s passwords if they’re not strong enough.

Still, if you need to create a strong password by yourself, here are some tips:

  • Make it more than 8 characters long.
  • Mix lowercase, uppercase, special characters, and numbers if possible.
  • Don’t use your personal information in it. For example, your phone number alone.
  • Avoid predictable sequences. 12345678 isn’t secure.
  • How to remember it? Write it down and store it in a secure place. Even better, you can create a phrase easy to remember; for example, I_love_Ananas_Pizza.
worst passwords 2017

Your credentials could have already been leaked in a data breach!

Check here with your email and/or phone number.

You’ll need to change your passwords in that case.

Secure Your Accounts With Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-Factor authentication involves proving you’re the owner of the account you want to access in more than one way.

For example, providing 2 or more of these:

  • A password
  • Biometric data
  • A code you receive on your email
  • A code you receive on your phone via SMS
  • A code you are given by an authenticator app installed on your phone

Usually, you can set up two-factor authentication (2FA) with a password and something more.

That will make it a lot more difficult for an attacker to take over your account.

Check for tutorials here on how to enable 2FA for the most common services like Gmail and Facebook.

2 factor authentication

Log Out When You Finish

Remember to log out of apps and websites when you finish using them.

An active login could allow an attacker to access your account.

Lock Your Devices, Like Your Phone and Laptop

Locking your devices is like locking the front door of your home when you go out.

Opt for biometric methods over passphrases/passcodes.

You won’t need to remember anything, and it’s more secure.

Use Security Software; Firewall, Antivirus, Ad-Blockers and Anti-Spyware

Even being careful, you may click the wrong link and infect your computer with malware.

It can happen to anyone; there’s too much information to handle.

That’s why you need to apply security in several layers.

Firewall, antivirus, ad-blockers, and anti-spyware are vital lines in your defenses:

  • A Firewall will prevent unsolicited connections to your device. It will also prevent you from connecting to malicious websites. Antivirus software usually includes a firewall, but you can also use the built-in firewall for your system. Here’s how to enable it on Windows 10.
  • Antivirus software will analyze your system’s files and behavior in search of threats. Windows and macOS platforms come with built-in solutions that are good enough.
  • Ad Blockers are useful for avoiding malicious and/or annoying pop-ups when you’re browsing. My recommendations are AdBlock Plus (ABP) and uBlock Origin. Both are free and available for the major browsers and systems; Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari, Internet Explorer, Android, and iOS.
  • Spyware is malicious software an attacker can use to spy on you and steal your sensitive information. My recommendation for an anti-spyware solution is Malwarebytes. It has a free version and works on Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and Chrome, and Firefox.

Adjust Your Privacy Settings on Your Device and Browser

Your devices and browser store a lot of sensitive information about you.

Even though it may not be used directly to scam you, companies may sell this information to, for example, the ads industry.

If you aren’t happy about that situation, you can:

  • Clear your browsing history at the end of your session, so you don’t leave any trail of sensitive data, or use incognito mode instead.
  • Check this guide on how to disable cookies and trackers that collect your data.
  • Restrict on your device which apps have access to your location, contacts, and other personal information. This guide will help you adjust the privacy settings on your smartphone or tablet.

Browse Only Secure Websites

Don’t input sensitive information when browsing HTTP websites!

Attackers can steal your data.

Trustworthy websites usually connect with you using HTTPS protocol.

That encrypts your data in transit, securing it from an attacker who could be sniffing your network traffic.

You will recognize when a website is using secure HTTPS by the closed lock icon:

https encrypted websites

There are exceptions, so you may find malicious websites using HTTPS too.

Are you unsure if a website is trustworthy?

Check here.

You can also research what other people say about it in forums.

Be Careful Where You Click

malware pop-ups

Clicking on the wrong links in emails, social media, or pop-up ads is how scammers often get access to your personal information.

Big tags displaying “Click Here” and promising access to incredible things usually lead to malware.

malware notification on a website

Even if the sender seems to be your bank, credit card company, family, or friend, don’t forget to double-check.

Fraudsters can be very good at impersonating or could also have hacked into a legit account of your contacts to trick you.

Use Spam Filters for Unwanted Emails

A spam filter will help you separate the legit emails from the unwanted.

False positives may occur, but still, the rate of spam detection is high.

The most popular email services use this feature.

Learn more about it:

Beware of the Apps You Download!

Download and use reputable apps from trustworthy websites.

A malicious app could steal sensitive information on your smartphone: your contacts, location, keystrokes, and more.

malicious app

Secure Your Home Network

When using a wireless internet connection at home, an attacker close enough could sniff the packets on the way from your device to your router.

If you’re using a non-encrypted protocol, like FTP or HTTP, the criminal will be able to read all your data in transit.

To prevent this situation, you can use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

On our website, you’ll find plenty of guides about different providers, and for various applications, so you can choose the best for you.

Your router’s configuration page also comes with default credentials, which anyone can find on the Internet.

An attacker with access to your router configuration can perform a wide range of attacks to compromise your information.

Change the default credentials of your router and all your devices!

Use Credit Cards for Online Shopping

If you have a problem when shopping online, you can call your credit card company.

They’ll stop the charge or refund your money while they investigate your claim.

Credit cards will offer you more protection than debit cards or online payment services like Paypal or Android Pay.

Online Shopping scams are the most common, targeting seniors and all age groups.

Check other useful tips here.

Monitor Your Credit Reports and Transactions

Look at your recent activity to ensure that there aren’t fraudulent charges to your credit, debit, and bank accounts.

Even if you don’t bank online, there’s still a risk that you could be a victim of fraud.

Monitoring their activity is usually how people detect online scams.

If you find something suspicious, report it right away to the financial institution’s fraud department or to the toll-free number on your card.

Report Abuse

Speak out if you’re victimized, don’t feel ashamed!

We are human; we make mistakes, bad things can happen.

Fraudsters are good at what they do, and a lot of people in all age groups have fallen victim worldwide.

Report abuse to your trusted people and the proper authorities and organizations.

This way, you’re giving the important first step towards catching the criminals.

You’ll also be helping increase awareness, so other people can be alert and safe. 

Check I Fell Victim of Online Fraud. What Can I Do? for contact information of fraud-specialized organizations worldwide.

Consider Contracting Personal Cyber Insurance

Also named Internet Insurance, it usually covers these events:

  • Cyber Attacks: Protects against financial consequences of online attacks against your home systems. For example, electronic devices broken by a cyberattack are covered.
  • Cyber Extortion: Covers the costs associated with the event of online criminals threatening to release your sensitive personal data or doesn’t allow access to it. For example, ransomware attacks.
  • Financial Loss Due to Fraud: Coverage for events like identity theft, stolen bank funds, or fraudulent use of credit cards.

On one end, you can find cyber insurance companies offering coverage limits of 10,000 USD for just a 6 USD monthly fee.

On the other extreme, you may find companies offering coverage limits up to 2,000,000 USD for a several thousand USD monthly fee.

The latest protects against the mentioned events and others like cyberbullying.

Here you can find extensive information about personal cyber insurances.

My advice is that the best investment for your safety is education.

Learn. Technology Can Be Your Friend.

Be aware of the trendy scams.

You may also want to learn about the internet and technology if you enjoy the topic.

Other family members, your grandchildren, or computer-savvy friends may be willing to help you.

Many senior centers, some schools, and some religious or community groups offer free or low-cost classes.

Technology brands like Microsoft offer free advice on products they support.

You may also get help from the staff of local computer or electronics stores.

The internet is an almost infinite source of tutorials, courses, forums, tips, etc., for any topic you can imagine.

Education is the best form of protection.

Ask For Help

If you aren’t sure about something, get another opinion from a trusted person or do some research.

There are also organizations worldwide related to online fraud prevention that provide free assistance.

Check the last sections in this article.

Remember That Expertise Comes With Practice

Don’t worry if you can’t recognize which emails are likely a scam at first.

You’ll learn with time and experience.

Be patient and gentle with yourself.

Here’s a quiz game you can use for sharpening your detection skills.

Elder People and the Internet

elder people and internet

As the world gets more globalized and virtually connected, seniors do too.

According to the 2021 Pew Research Center survey, only 25% of US adults aged 65+ don’t use the Internet, compared to 75% in 2000.

That’s 3 out of 4 seniors connected nowadays, and the numbers increase year to year.

Elderly people’s use of the Internet has also tripled from 2009 to 2019 in the EU, according to Eurostat.

internet activities of people by age according to eurostat

In the UK, a 2019 survey made by the Office For National Statistics showed 83% of people aged 65-74 using the Internet compared to 52% in 2011.

Even though the seniors are still the age group with the lowest online presence, we can see the generation gap narrowing.

Covid-19 pandemics is also making seniors adopt internet use at a faster pace.

For example, in Canada, seniors are using video calls twice more than in 2019.

2020 Environics Research shows that 72% of Canadians 65+ feel confident using current technology.

What Do Seniors Use the Internet For?

internet users in UK, 2011 and 2019

Seniors are now more connected than ever!

The reasons why they go online can vary a lot depending on the person, for example:

  • Participating in social and cultural activities.
  • Keeping in touch with loved ones.
  • Meeting new friends and/or dating.
  • Online banking.
  • Making travel arrangements.
  • Getting medical advice, doctor reports, and test results.
  • Sharing and viewing pictures.
  • Exploring and sharing views about diverse topics, like politics.

What Makes Seniors Vulnerable?

Besides general internet risks, each age group has unique vulnerabilities that could make them victims of online scams.

Seniors, in comparison to other age groups:

  • Lack computer and/or Internet skills.
  • Are more trusting.
  • Don’t feel the need to learn how to use the Internet.

Many older adults spent a big part of their lives working and socializing without the need for computers or the Internet.

As a result, they have less experience and/or are used to trusting in what they see, as in real life.

Learn the Frequent Types of Online Frauds Targeting Seniors to Be Aware

online frauds

To find something, you first need to know what you’re looking for.

Learn the typical scams types used on seniors to spot them easily!

Online Shopping Scams

Criminals may set up a fake selling website or a fake ad on a legit marketplace, offering very cheap prices of popular and useful items like electronics, jewelry, clothing brands, medicines, insurances, etc.

Check for these red signs when using a new online retail store:

  • The only payment methods don’t offer any protection after completing purchase; gift cards, wire transfer, money order, cryptocurrencies, etc. Don’t make an upfront payment with these methods. If you never receive, or you receive a worsened version of the purchased item, you would have lost your money.
  • Prices are unbelievably low.
  • Terms of use, refund, or privacy policy aren’t clear.
  • Payment page hasn’t HTTPS encryption (remember the closed lock sign).

Remember to research on Google and forums about the online shop’s websites and products before you buy, and to use secure payment methods as with credit cards.

Here’s a great resource for buying medicines safely online.

fake shop online

Tech Support Scam

Fraudsters may contact you impersonating Microsoft, Apple, Dell, or any other well-known company and tell you that your computer is vulnerable or infected.

Then, they’ll act like they’re checking some information, till finally providing you a fake solution; a malicious website link or software to infect your computer.

Reputable companies will never contact you with messages like this.

Sometimes, this scam will appear as a pop-up on your computer, web browser, or mobile app, warning you of a virus or security risk.

Remember to verify the identity of who’s calling and never download software or visit websites you aren’t sure you can trust.

tech-support-scam

Business and Investment Scams

The criminal contacts you with a great business/investment opportunity, usually impersonating someone rich or famous in need of help.

They promise incredible returns and safe arrangements, where you can take out your money easily when you want, but all is a lie.

The typical excuse for offering such proposals is that they need “help to transfer funds.”

A long-dating example of this type of fraud is the Nigerian Prince email scam.

Government and Health Scam

Here the fraudsters impersonate a government or health institution and claim that you or a member of your family owes them money.

Don’t get impressed by bank notices or government documents looking professional and official.

Scammers can be very good at falsification.

If you receive a bill from a hospital, government agency, or bill collector urging you to pay something you didn’t spend, don’t respond.

Research the claim first, for example, by contacting the government agency on their official emails/phone numbers.

government health scam

Romance Scams

The scammers impersonate someone attractive and fake a romantic relationship to gain your trust and steal your money.

That is one of the most dangerous fraud types by its emotional and financial outcomes.

A lonely senior who had a long relationship and now seeks another person to share life with can be an easy target.

Detecting Online Dating Scams

Your intuition can be a handy tool for assessing any situation, but it can be hard to see what you don’t want when feelings are in the middle.

These red flags can help you be more aware of romance scams:

  • The person is a lot younger than you, and his/her photos look like they came from a fashion website.
  • The dating website is very new.
  • The person pressures you to start communicating via email or text message.
  • He/she professes instant feelings of love for you.
  • Your pretender is never available for a video call or face-to-face meeting.
  • He/she asks you to send money to deal with personal problems or get a plane ticket to travel to meet you. Be very careful with this.

Do you have an in-person meeting?

Great!

Everything will be ok.

Consider the following tips to feel safer:

  • Arrange the first meeting in a public place, like a restaurant
  • Let friends and/or family members know where you’re going
  • Have a friend call during the meeting to make sure all is going well
  • Beware that some scammers may trick you into going partying with your money

You Won a Prize/Lottery Scams

The scammer contacts you and says you won a big prize or lottery, but you must first pay a transaction fee to claim it.

After paying, you never receive anything.

That’s also known as a Sweepstakes Scam.

Remember to double-check the organizations contacting you and that if you never entered a lottery, you couldn’t win it.

prize scam

Relative in Need/Grandparent Scam

Scammers may impersonate a relative or friend and say they’re in an emergency, like having their wallet stolen or being arrested.

Find another way to verify if that’s true, such as reaching out directly to the person.

Beware that even if you receive a message from a family member/friend’s email or social media account, it could have been hacked.

Thereby, it’s the criminal trying to trick you into sending them money.

Travel Scams

That is a variation of the Prize Scam in which the reward is related to traveling and vacations.

For example, you’ll receive an email claiming you won a 2-weeks all-inclusive luxury vacation to Aruba, but you need to pay a processing fee to claim it.

A trustworthy travel agency would never ask you to pay a fee to enjoy a prize you won.

Remember to verify the agency’s legitimacy by researching their website, looking in forums, and calling their official numbers.

Charity Scams

A lot of amazing projects in different geographies are working on making the world a better place.

You can support them and people in need via online donations.

But beware, sometimes scammers create fake charity projects or fake websites of real projects.

When planning to support a charity by online donations, take the following into account:

  • Research about the charity project and organization. Here’s a great place to start.
  • Verify you land on the charity’s legitimate website. Type their Web address in your browser, avoid clicking on an ad link.

Identity Theft

Fraudsters may use your personal information to impersonate you and get cash, credit, goods, or other benefits.

That’s why you should limit the personal data you share on social media.

Additionally, remember to disclose only the necessary information when filling online forms.

Non-Existent Credit Card Offers

Scammers may contact you to offer a credit card with benefits that are too good, such as credit advancements with very high approved limits.

The catch is that you have to pay a fee first.

As you may have already guessed, after paying, you won’t hear from them anymore.

Quiz/Survey Scams

Fraudsters may prepare bad-intended quizzes and surveys with very personal questions about your health, wealth, habits, etc.

They may then sell this information or use it to commit identity theft.

Cyberattacks Against Older Adults: Statistics

cyberattack

Looking at the numbers, we’ll have a broader view of what’s happening with seniors and online fraud.

That will help us prevent it better.

Half of All Scams Happen Online

The 2020 European Commission report found that online communication channels account for more than 50% of all scams.

The preferred medium of communication for scammers is email (43%).

28% of victims get contacted via phone, especially people 55+, as they are less active online compared to other age groups.

online communication channels scams

Most Victims of Fraud Are Not Seniors but Young Adults

13% of 2020 US identity fraud reports were from seniors 70+ vs. 44% from people aged 20-29.

Identity fraud is the most common online scam.

Cifas statistics in the UK put people aged 31-40 in first place.

Seniors came fourth.

Young adults are the age group with the most online presence.

That could be the reason for the numbers.

Older People Lose 4x More Money When Falling Victim to Fraud

Younger adults lose money to fraud more often, but the median loss per incident is around 4 times higher for seniors.

That’s according to the 2021 Javelin report.

Experts say this is because elderly adults are more trusting, have more savings, and check their credit and financial accounts less.

percentage reporting a fraud loss and medium loss by age

According to the 2020 FBI Annual Report, seniors 60+ lost almost 1 billion USD because of online frauds, becoming the age group reporting the highest losses.

Two-Thirds of Seniors (67%) Have Been Target or Victim of Online Scams or Hacking

Home Instead Senior Care Center did the research with US and Canadians 70+.

In 2017, the federal law Elder Abuse Prevention and Protection Act was enacted in the US.

That was a big step for helping protect seniors.

Yet, the tendency of scammers targeting the elderly continues to grow.

A new law was enacted this year; the Elder Abuse Protection Act of 2021.

Senior’s Losses Are the Highest for Romance Scams

Even though romance scams aren’t the most frequent in which seniors fall victim, the average loss per incident is higher than for other types, according to the 2020 Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report.

That causes the total losses for this type of scam to be the highest.

2019 top fraud types ages 60 and over

And romance scams aren’t ending soon.

This fraud type kept growing year to year, and in 2020, reported a record increase of 50%, also according to FTC.

romance scam reports

Average losses due to romance scams also vary depending on the age group:

  • Seniors aged 60-69 lost on average around 6,700 USD.
  • Seniors aged 70-79 lost on average around 10,000 USD.
  • Seniors aged 80-89 rarely reported losses to this fraud scheme.

In the most extreme cases, senior victims of romance scams lost all their savings.

Online Shopping and Tech Support Scams Are the Most Common for Seniors

online shopping and tech support scams

We can also see in the 2020 FTC report a steep increase on:

  • Tech Support Scams, +474% growth compared to 2018!
  • Prize/Lottery Scams, +219%
  • Impostor Scams, +160%

It’s also interesting to remark on the differences between seniors and other age groups.

While seniors are mostly falling victim to the scams mentioned before, people aged 20-59 are a lot more prone to be scammed by online shopping schemes.

2019 loss reports by age and fraud type

Scammers Get Paid via Gift/Credit Cards Around Half of the Times, but They Receive More Money via Wire Transfers

Seniors lose money with more frequency to fraudsters by paying for gift cards (28.4%).

However, wire transfers represent almost 50% of the total losses, surpassing the second-place Cash or Cash Advance by more than 3 times.

2019 top payment methods

Seniors Report Online Fraud Less Likely When They Suffer Monetary Losses

On the other side, seniors report online fraud is more likely when there wasn’t a financial loss, according to the 2020 FTC Report.

That could be because seniors feel more ashamed when being victims of online scams or because they get to identify and report them earlier than other age groups.

2019 fraud loss report and no-loss reports

Impact of Online Fraud in Seniors

Elderly people have lost all their savings, properties, and even homes because of a successful online scam.

The financial implications can go further.

Seniors’ families and future generations like children and grandchildren may be affected.

Sometimes the responsibility of recovering the money and handling the situation falls on the caregivers and/or families.

It’s hard to quantify the emotional and psychological effects, but they exist and can be severe.

The American Psychology Association reported that many seniors may have gone to early graves due to stress after losing everything. 

How Can I Protect My Grandparents From Online Scams?

Your grandparents need to know they can count on you, not only for being better protected from online scams but in general.

Even if, for some reason, you can’t be physically near, call them, listen to them, and try to be as present as possible.

Here are some more tips to protect your beloved elderly people from online scams:

  • Let your grandparents know you’re there to help. Give them a way of contacting you if anything happens.
  • Help them secure their computers.
  • Inform your grandparents about common online scams but be tactful, don’t scare them! Highlight that they’ll learn to detect fraud schemes better and get to use the Internet safely.
  • Assist your grandparents in finding the best device for them. Many seniors prefer to use devices with a touchscreen, big screens, and support for reading text aloud and enlarging it on the screen to make it easier to read.
  • Motivate your grandparents to learn to use the Internet and technology. Remark the things they can do with it instead of the underlying technical details. For example, tell your parents that they’ll be able to:
    • Send emails and communicate in real-time using messenger apps with their family and friends.
    • Share photos, books, music, and more.
    • Translate from or to English to any other language.
    • Read the latest news worldwide.
    • Find amazing places for their next holidays.
    • Play games, connect with new people, and more.

Cyber-Seniors is a great documentary film that can give you a lot of inspiration.

You could watch it with your grandparents!

It’s a fun and meaningful movie about a group of seniors giving their first steps online under the tutelage of teenager mentors.

I Fell Victim to Online Fraud. What Can I Do?

If you fell victim to an online scam, it’s important to know how to remediate the situation.

Do the following:

Share It With Your Family and People You Trust

Falling victim to online fraud is something that can happen to anyone.

Don’t feel ashamed.

Your loved people will listen to you and help solve the situation.

Find Out What Was Stolen

Check your bank account’s transaction history and your credit report.

That’s how victims usually discover they were scammed.

Take note of all discrepancies found.

That information will be useful later.

Change Your Passwords

Implement it for all the accounts, devices, and systems you are sure (or suspect) were compromised.

Consider using more secure authentication methods and multi-factor, as we discussed in the first section.

Run a Security Scan in Your Devices and Clean Them Up

Use your antivirus and other security software to detect malicious programs on your system.

If your device is still behaving strangely or you aren’t sure the clean-up was successful, ask for help.

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Place a Freeze or Fraud Alert in Your Credit Reports

And contact your bank to find out what systems they have in place to prevent further losses.

Report Your Stolen Documents to the Issuing Organizations

If you were a victim of identity theft, you should inform the institutions that issued your stolen documents; passports, credit cards, social insurance numbers, etc.

Report the Incident to the Police

This report will be your claim of innocence and will help start an investigation.

Report It to Online Fraud Organizations

That will help them design better protection measures and warn other people about the ongoing scams.

In the US:

  • Submit a report to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website.
  • If you were a victim of medical ID theft, notify your insurer and medical providers, get copies of your medical files and ask to have them corrected. You can also consider filing a health privacy complaint with the US Department of Health & Human Services online or calling 1-800-368-1019.
  • If you were a victim of Tax ID theft, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490.
  • You can report the online fraud event to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

In the US and Canada:

  • Submit a report to the National Consumers League (NCL) website. They share the information provided with more than 100 law enforcement partners over the US and Canada.

In the UK:

  • You can report it to the National Fraud & Cyber Crime Reporting Centre.

In the EU:

Internationally:

  • econsumer.gov is a partnership of more than 40 consumer protection agencies across the world. You can file a complaint here.

Online Free Support and Resources for Seniors

The Internet is an inexhaustible source of information and tools on any subject you could imagine.

It also gives you the possibility of contacting experts in very diverse topics and living all over the world.

The websites shared in the previous section provide a place for reporting a scam and a lot of tips and relevant information related to online fraud and seniors.

In this section, we go even further, sharing resources on technological education, relevant forums, and the contact of organizations providing free online assistance for seniors victims of online fraud.

Free Online Courses for Seniors

  • Age International is a charity dedicated to providing services and support for seniors in the UK, North Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and 36 other countries. Currently, they offer IT training for older people at their centers in the UK. Check availability in your area here.
  • GCFLearnFree.org has a 20 years trajectory offering free courses for people worldwide. Their website has tutorials, quizzes, and videos on how to use an email for different providers, how to use different OS platforms, Office applications, computer basics, online security, and much more.
  • Another project providing free online courses on email basics, computers, etc., is Meganga. Their materials are good, but their last update was in 2015.
  • Seniors Guide to Computers is also a great option with a simple and intuitive interface.
  • Protect Seniors Online is a website with great and updated articles about online fraud. They also have a quiz game to help you improve your scam detection skills.
  • In Tech Boomers, you’ll find courses on computer basics and how to use all the most popular services and apps, like Zoom, TikTok, Pinterest, Twitter, etc.
  • Eldy is an NGO, software, and a community. The software was designed for elderly people to learn internet basics by doing them firsthand. It has an intuitive interface and common services, such as email.

Forums and Communities Sharing Information About Online Scams

In the subreddits r/personalfinance and r/scams, you can find an active community helping each other on personal finances and informing about the latest scams to raise awareness.

Find here another active community composed mostly of seniors.

Free Assistance for Seniors on Online Fraud

In the US:

  • Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) for free assistance. Call toll-free 888-400-5530 or check their Help Center.
  • The Fraud Fighters organization offers a call center to provide support. Call 877-908-3360.

In Canada:

  • Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center (CAFC). They provide advice and assistance to victims. Call 1-888-495-8501 or visit their website.

In the UK:

  • Contact CIFAS, the UK’s Fraud Prevention Service, to apply for protective registration.
  • Age UK provides free and independent advice 365 days a year from 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. Call 0-800-678-1602.

What’s Next?

Online Scams are not ending soon, but the technology gap between seniors and technology is getting narrower year to year.

By informing ourselves, our loved ones, and being more attentive, we can create a safer world.

In this guide, you can learn about the latest cybersecurity statistics and more.

Identity Theft is one of the most dangerous scams, having awful consequences, especially for elderly people. You can learn more about it here.

Don’t forget to share this article to increase awareness!

Thank you for reading.

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Bram Jansen
Bram Jansen
I'm Bram Jansen, a leading expert in the realm of cyberspace, ever since I was little, books like Neuromancer and The Foundation always fascinated me, this fiction of a world that isn't simply based within the real world. As I started growing up, I started gaining interest in how I could manipulate this cyberspace that's available in the real world, so I picked a career that I knew was right for me.

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