Seniors aren’t the only targets for scams—whether you’re 26 or 76, there are various malicious ways that people can take your information, identity or money. However, if you feel less comfortable around technology or aren’t aware of what these scams can look like, it can be difficult to spot them when targeted. The secret to avoiding scams for seniors isn’t complicated; it just requires education. So whether it’s for you or an older loved one, arming yourself with information is the best way to stay cyber safe.
To help you learn more about some of the tactics used to access your personal information, here are seven scams to watch out for:
1. Clinical Trial Scams
These types of scams can often appear quite official but are, in fact, a way to collect your information. For example, you might encounter a promise of free medical support through research or compensation for participation, but don’t be fooled. When you see a clinical trial that you may want to participate in, the FTC recommends Googling the name of the trial with the keywords “scam,” “review,” or “complaint.” You’ll likely find reports online that confirm the validity of the project.
2. Investment Opportunity Scams
These scams can be some of the hardest to pass up because who doesn’t want to make a good investment? As a rule of thumb, all your investments should be made through established and credible organizations. For instance, vet any new opportunities with a financial advisor with whom you have an existing relationship. Avoid sending money or information to companies that fall outside your regular boundaries.
3. Government Scams
The government often asks for our information when doing routine things like registering a car or renewing a license. As such, scammers will create fake government documentation that feels like one of these normal requests. If a government agency asks for your information, always be sure to verify the email address or website the request came from. If anything looks suspicious, don’t provide your information and go to your local courthouse or public office building to confirm the request.
Alternatively, you can always look up the phone number for that local government office (for example, your closest DMV or social security office) and speak to someone there about this request. Never call the number on the request you receive, that could be associated with the scam. Instead, confirm the proper contact information yourself.
4. Friend or Family Identity Scams
When avoiding scams for seniors, it’s important to remember that scammers may sometimes resort to seemingly odd ways of capturing your information—even pretending to be a relative! If you receive a phone call asking for help from a family member, and the voice sounds a little different, they’re using a new phone number, or they don’t share their name, it’s okay to be suspicious. Consider reaching out to another family member privately to confirm the request before providing your help.
These types of scams will often use a sense of urgency like a grandchild was arrested for a DUI and needs bail money immediately. Always take down that phone number and call another family member to confirm. Never offer to wire or send money immediately, no matter how dire the situation seems.
5. Tech Support Scams
Computer tech support scams are more common than you think. When browsing the web or social media, a scammer can create a fake pop-up for tech support using a fake email, phone number or chat feature. The people on the other line may eventually ask for access to your computer to “fix the problem” but have no intention to do so. This scam can easily be avoided by always using the official chat features for reputable websites. If you’re not sure where to ask for help, go to a trusted family member or friend to find help.
6. Sweepstakes or Prize Scams
We all love to win, right? Sometimes, our winnings might seem too good to be true—and if they come from a suspicious website on the internet or a random letter in the mail, they probably are! Even though it can feel tempting to say yes to your big prize, don’t give any of your information until you can confirm the validity of the company giving it to you.
7. Email and General Internet Scams
In general, the internet has made it much easier to scam individuals, whether through a pop-up on a website, social media post or fake email. Always be cautious online, and try not to give out your personal details via unsecured methods (i.e., bank details in an email, personal data on an unknown website). Perform your own background check on companies asking for any of your information and use the help of your friends or family to exercise discernment.
Avoiding Scams for Seniors: What To Do Next
If you do get caught up in a scam, don’t be embarrassed. It’s okay to ask for help. The sooner you share the predicament, the sooner it can be fixed. Make sure that you have the contact information for your credit union, bank, local police and Adult Protective Services available, in case of an emergency. You don’t need to live in permanent worry when browsing the internet or opening mail, but always keep an eye out for suspicious activity!