After several coaching sessions, your mom is finally able to log onto her new computer and open her email. She’s even mastered the art of a simple Facebook post. But in your effort to offer Mom a new way to connect with far-away family and friends, you’ve also introduced her to a new world of potential internet fraud.
According to the FBI, seniors are often vulnerable targets of smart, clever thieves. In fact, they are twice as likely to become victims of internet fraud. Not only do seniors often have a “nest egg” tucked away, they often are lonely and eager to talk to anyone who makes contact, whether it be on the phone, in an email or even in person.
What’s worse is that elderly people are less likely than younger people to report a fraud. They’re either embarrassed about being a victim, or they fear losing their independence should their children or grandchildren start to question their mental capacity.
You don’t want your parents to be afraid to open their email, but they also need to know the warning signs of a fraud attempt. Here are a few red flags to watch for.
- There’s no such thing as a free lunch, or a Caribbean cruise. Remind aging loved ones that a call, letter or email promising something for nothing is best ignored.
- Encourage your loved one to NEVER give bank or credit card information to someone who calls or emails them. Scammers will sometimes pose as someone from a bank or company that is familiar to the elderly person, but don’t assume the person is who they say they are. If in doubt, contact the bank or company yourself, so you know who you’re talking to.
- That includes requests to update or confirm personal information. By responding, your loved one could be providing thieves with everything they need to empty their accounts or drive up their credit card balance.
- Teach seniors how to tell whether a website is secure. While not an absolute guarantee of safety, websites that begin with https:// offer some assurance, as does the padlock icon.
- Facebook and other social media sites are a great way to keep in touch with family and friends, but accepting friend requests from strangers is dangerous. Be sure your loved one’s accounts are set to private, and remind them to never accept a friend request from someone they do not know. If necessary, know your loved one’s login information and check up on them from time to time.
- Let your loved one know they can always come to you for help or advice. Assure them that you won’t think they’re silly or foolish if they ask about a strange email or unfamiliar Facebook friend request. Be patient with them and let them know you’re there to answer their cyber questions.
- Criminals are always coming up with new ways to do their business. Stay up to date on the latest scams by signing up for scam alerts from the Federal Trade Commission. Tips and advice about scams will be sent right to your inbox.