The following information is from the state attorney general’s website.
The Internet creates excellent opportunities for seniors to meet people, conduct business, plan travel, access records, stay in touch with friends and family and support hobbies and entertainment interests. You can learn how to take advantage of the opportunities without falling prey to predators so you can have peace of mind when you go online.
Factors that contribute to increased risk
Every age group has unique vulnerabilities in addition to general Internet risks and seniors are no exception. Few entirely new types of crime are created to target seniors; the issue lies in how existing crimes are tailored specifically to exploit older Internet users.
For example, while an online scam targeting minors is going to promise trips to Disneyland or cool toys scams aimed at seniors are more likely to offer discount drugs and low-cost insurance. Phishing scams frequently target seniors with ‘bank notices’ or official looking ‘government documents’.
In addition to being targeted for different types of crime, seniors may share characteristics that make them vulnerable online. Here are some of the major factors that make seniors vulnerable.
Lack of Internet skills
Though many seniors are cutting edge users of Internet services, others are beginners when it comes to computer technology.
Just spending more time online will help you feel more comfortable with the ins and outs of navigating online and interacting on Web sites. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the tricks scammers and some less reputable companies use, you can simply avoid them.
You have a wealth of experience in judging the character of people you meet in person, but you have probably developed fewer skills for assessing the character of the people and companies you meet online. You are typically more trusting and respectful of official looking material than younger generations, so are more apt to fall for scams. And you are more worried about notices that claim there is a problem with your information that might somehow sully your good name.
In the online world, unless you know for sure with whom you are dealing, you must assume that you could have landed on a ‘look-a-like’ site trying to scam you.
Tips for seniors to stay safer online
Never trust a link sent to you by someone you don’t know. By clicking the link you may be taken to a site that may look like your bank or credit card company, but isn’t. One thing a criminal can’t fake is the actual Web site address of a company or bank. Instead of clicking a link in an e-mail, search for the Web address using a search engine to find the real one. Use that to ask the company about the message you received, or call using the number listed on your statements. Mark the real site as a favorite in your browser so that one click brings you there safely every time.
Never trust an e-mail that asks for your personal or account information (called a phishing scam). These usually seem convincing (the shabby ones have spelling errors, but the high quality scams look impeccable). No bank or reputable company is going to send you an e-mail asking you to correct your information, validate your identity, re-enter your password, and so on.
Never respond – or even open an e-mail with a deal that is too good to be true unless it is from a company that you know well and expect to get these kinds of offers from them. Scammers want you to react without taking time to think things through, so their e-mails frequently sound urgent, such as:
Do not believe a person from another country who just needs you to “help transfer funds” and they need your bank account number to do so. Such scammers promise to give you a huge amount of money for helping them out. The result is an empty bank account.
If you never entered a lottery, you did not win the lottery. Such scams ask you to provide your information and bank account number so they can transfer your prize money. Don’t. The result is an empty bank account.
Don’t believe a really rich, famous person just wants to help you out… and that the celebrity also mysteriously needs your address, phone number, bank account information to do so. The result is an empty bank account.
Guard your information well. It is better to be rude than to be ripped off, so demand validation, verification, and authentication before giving your information to anyone. If you still feel uneasy, say no or check further.