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Staying Safe from Scammers: How to Protect Yourself

A man sits on a leather couch with a computer in his lap.

Kara Miller |

Online scams are a growing problem for seniors, who are often targeted due to their perceived vulnerability and lack of experience with technology. These scams can be devastating, resulting in the loss of money and personal information, as well as emotional distress and a loss of trust.

There are many different types of online scams, in this article we will cover the four most common scam formats.

 


Phishing Scams

Phishing scams involve scammers posing as a trustworthy individual or organization in order to obtain sensitive information from the victim. These scams can come in the form of emails, phone calls, or text messages. The goal of these scams is to convince the victim to provide personal information such as passwords, bank account numbers, or social security numbers.

Phishing scams often use scare tactics to convince the victim to provide their information. For example, a phishing email may claim that there has been suspicious activity on the victim's bank account and that they need to provide their login credentials to verify their identity. The email may use urgent or threatening language to make the victim feel like they need to act quickly.

To protect themselves from phishing scams, seniors should be wary of unsolicited requests for personal information, suspicious-looking email addresses or phone numbers, and urgent or threatening language. It is important to verify the legitimacy of an organization before providing any personal information, and to be cautious of any requests that seem too good to be true.

TIP #1: If you receive a suspicious call it’s always better to hang up. Call the company directly by looking up the support number listed on the company’s official website. For example, if you get a call and the person on the other line states they are from Chase Bank, hang up and call the number on Chase’s website. This way you can be sure you are talking to a real representative.

 

Lottery tickets laid over each other taking up the whole frame.

 

 

Windfall Scams

Windfall scams are designed to convince the victim that they have won a large sum of money or a valuable prize. Scammers will often ask the victim to pay a fee or provide personal information in order to claim their supposed winnings.

Windfall scams often use emotional appeals to convince the victim to provide their information. For example, a scammer may claim that the victim has won a lottery or sweepstakes and that they need to pay a processing fee in order to claim their winnings. The scammer may use high-pressure sales tactics to make the victim feel like they need to act quickly in order to claim their prize.

To protect themselves from windfall scams, seniors should be wary of unsolicited offers, requests for payment or personal information, and pressure to act quickly. It is important to remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

TIP #2: Take a look at the email addresses from suspicious emails. If emails contain a lot of jumbled letters or numbers, there’s a good chance it’s a scam.

A person swipes on an online dating profile from their phone.

 

 

Romance Scams

Romance scams are another common type of online scam that have really taken off with the advent of online dating and social media. Romance scams involve scammers creating fake online profiles to establish a romantic relationship with the victim. Once trust has been established, the scammer will ask for money or personal information.

Romance scams often use emotional appeals to convince the victim to provide their information. For example, a scammer may claim that they need money for medical expenses or to travel to meet the victim in person. The scammer may use flattery and attention to make the victim feel special and wanted. One woman in Georgia was recently scammed out of $145K by a man she met online in a romance scam.

To protect themselves from romance scams, seniors should be wary of unsolicited romantic advances, requests for money or personal information, and inconsistencies in the scammer's story or profile. It is important to remember that if someone you have never met in person is asking for money or personal information, it is likely a scam.

TIP #3: Never send anyone money over the internet if you have not met in person. Romance scammers can be very convincing and are often running multiple scams at once. Additionally, if you are not web savvy, avoid sending money to an individual over the internet when possible due to the risk of fraud.

 

People sit in cubicles in a call center.

 

Customer Support Scams

Customer support scams involve scammers posing as customer support representatives for a legitimate company in order to obtain sensitive information from the victim. These scams can come in the form of phone calls, emails, or pop-up messages.

Customer support scams often use scare tactics to convince the victim to provide their information. For example, a scammer may claim that the victim's computer is infected with malware and that they need remote access to fix the problem. The scammer may use urgent or threatening language to make the victim feel like they need to act quickly.

To protect themselves from customer support scams, seniors should be wary of unsolicited requests for personal information, threatening or urgent language, and requests for remote access to their computer. It is important to remember that legitimate companies will never request personal information over email and rarely request it over the phone. You can always end the call and then reach out to the customer service representatives of the businesses to double check if this contact is coming from them.

Always check that phone numbers match the phone numbers listed on websites and the back of credit cards. However, don’t rely on this alone. Some scammers have the ability to spoof phone numbers to match the ones listed on the website. This is why it’s important to hang up and redial the number.

TIP #4: Make sure the email address domains match the companies they’re supposedly coming from. For example, at Because Market, all email addresses from our support team will be from an email that ends in @becausemarket.com. If a customer receives an email, even if it looks like it came from us, but it has a different ending, it is likely a fraudulent email.

There are a few actions that increase your chances of being targeted by scammers. Here are some tips to avoid falling into a scam:

 

  • Use strong passwords and change them regularly
  • Keep your computer and antivirus software up to date to protect against malware
  • Verify the legitimacy if an organization before providing any personal information

 

If you or a loved one has fallen victim to an online scam, there are resources available for assistance. The National Elder Fraud Hotline (1-833-FRAUD-11) is a resource for seniors who have been victimized by fraud. The hotline can connect victims with local resources and law enforcement agencies that can assist with recovery and prosecution.

In conclusion, cybersecurity is a growing concern for seniors, and it is important to be vigilant and cautious when online. By recognizing the common types of online scams and red flags to look out for, seniors can better protect themselves from elder abuse, exploitation, and identity theft.



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