Cybercrimes, scams and the senior population

When it comes to cybercrimes and scams, seniors and elderly individuals are among the most targeted demographics.

Scammers often target those who are more trusting, have better credit and more wealth which is more common among the elderly population versus younger adults. Seniors are considered ‘easy’ targets by criminals because they might not know how to report cybercrimes against them. And, in some cases, seniors may experience shame and guilt over the scam.

Common cyber scams used against senior citizens include the following:

  • Tech support scams are where criminals pose as technology support representatives and offer to fix non-existent computer issues. The scammers may then gain remote access to a victim’s device and their stored sensitive information.
  • Government impersonation scams take place when a criminal poses as a government employee and threatens to arrest or prosecute victims unless they agree to provide payment.
  • Criminals that target potential victims using illegitimate credentials from legitimate services, like reverse mortgages or credit repairs, commit financial scams.
  • Romance scams take place when a criminal poses as an interested romantic partner on social media or dating websites. These criminals particularly target women and those who are recently widowed.

A new twist is to use the romance scam to recruit victims for other illegal activities. This might include using the victim’s bank account to launder illegally obtained money or apply for benefits in another person’s name.

Although cybercrimes are prevalent in this age of technology, there are ways to protect yourself from falling victim. Here are a few tips on how to protect yourself or a loved one from cybercrimes:

  • Limit the amount of personal information you post on social media and only add the people you actually know.
  • Resist the scammer’s urge for you to act quickly. Scammers are very skilled at manipulating emotions and will fabricate an emergency to persuade a victim to act without thinking.
  • Search for information about the proposed offer and any contact information given by the scammer. There are people and agencies online or in your community who can tell you if an individual or business is a scam. Never be afraid to ask others for help.
  • Never send money or personally identifiable information to unverified people or businesses. Always be suspicious about anyone who demands gift cards as payment.
  • Use reputable antivirus software and firewalls on your devices. And, don’t forget to update them regularly. If possible, configure your device to automatically download and install updates.
  • Disconnect from the internet and shut down your device if you see unusual pop-ups or get a locked screen. Pop-ups are often used by criminals to spread malicious software.
  • Be cautious of what you download. Never open email attachments from someone you do not know.
  • Never share financial account information and do not allow anyone access to your accounts.
  • Monitor your accounts and credit for unusual activity, such as large sums of money that you didn’t deposit or loans that you didn’t apply for.

If you think that you or a loved one might be the target of a scammer, contact your local law enforcement agency to file a report and notify your financial institutions.