The internet can be a scary place, especially if you’re among the members of the population who remember dialing a rotary telephone. When it comes to internet usage, 75% of adults who are 65 and older say they use the internet, according to PWC research. In 2000, the gap between the oldest and youngest groups of adults on the internet was 56 percentage points; today, that gap sits at 24 points, with a significant spike during the pandemic.
Online scammers often target seniors and the elderly due to their better credit scores and financial security. Being less technologically savvy and less aware of online safety makes these populations a prime target for cybercriminals. Reporting cybercrimes is also less likely to take place amongst older generations. According to research from the Federal Trade Commission, individuals aged 70 to 79 report at a rate of 12% compared to those aged 30 to 39 at 19%. Seniors tend not to report these incidents due to feeling ashamed or for fear of family members losing trust in them and their ability to manage their finances. All these reasons and more contribute to seniors being an easier target for scammers.
Let’s dive into why National Internet Safety Month is crucial and how it is essential to educate yourself on safely using the internet and IoT (Internet of Things) devices.
What is National Internet Safety Month?
National Internet Safety Month is an annual initiative dedicated to educating people on internet safety. Every day in June, governments, industries, and nonprofit organizations unite to promote online safety and educate on best practices. We recognize that internet safety is a shared responsibility, and we must work together to make the cyber world safer for everyone. The team at Kryptowire is here to do just that.
Common Online Threats for Seniors
Viruses and Malware
You can easily and unintentionally fall prey to viruses and malware by opening attachments, downloading a file, or visiting an infected website.
Tech Support Scam
Criminals pose as technical support representatives and offer to fix non-existent computer issues. The scammers can then gain remote access to victims’ devices and their stored sensitive information.
Learn how to spot the tell-tale signs of a fake profile or download offer. Scam profiles typically only have a few photos, and their profiles were created recently. Some scams mimic an actual business name or logo, so be mindful of incorrect spelling and colors. Do not download anything you are unsure of.
Password and Identity Theft
Unfortunately, medical offices are beginning to use more government services, and these are two industries that cybercriminals tend to target often. This means that personal information is more at risk than ever before. An example of password and Identity theft could be a scammer claiming to be a representative from a known provider who requests sensitive personal information that’s “missing” from their records.
Social Media Scams
Online romance scams are common. In fact, nearly 70% of the reports filed from ages 60+ indicated they lost money due to online romance scams. The fraudster, for example, might pretend to be interested romantically in their victim and trick them into sending money or gifts. Never share too much personal information with someone online, as they can use this information for financial gain by hacking into banking websites, etc.
Banking Fraud and Financial Exploitation
According to the National Council on Aging, the annual loss by victims of financial abuse is roughly $36.5 billion. Criminals target their victims using illegitimate credentials to access online accounts such as a reverse mortgage or credit repair. Be sure to pay attention to details before trusting anything that links to an outside website or that asks for financial information. Always be sure to look for a padlock (or lock) icon displayed in any given web browser, indicating a secure communication channel between the browser and the server on which the website is hosted.
Health and Well-being
Seniors often use the internet to solve their queries about health and medical issues. Thousands of websites offer free medical help and suggestions, but not all are legitimate and trustworthy. Two reputable sites for tips on dealing with Medicare are TurboTax.com and IRS.gov.
Online Threat Prevention Tips for Seniors
- Never sign any legal documents; always contact an attorney before doing so.
- Check your financial statements frequently (at least once a week).
- Do not give your financial information to anyone you do not know or trust, including credit card numbers, routing numbers, or account passwords.
- Avoid unsolicited calls by registering for the National Do Not Call Registry.
- Be cautious of sweepstakes scams.
- Remember that the government will not ask for personal information or money via telephone or email.
- Do not click on any links sent to you by an unknown contact via a text message, email, or any other form of communication.
Lastly, if you or anyone you know has been a victim of a cybercrime, be sure to report it to the FBI: Internet Crime Complaint Center IC3.