A new survey by Home Instead Senior Care found that two-thirds (67 percent) of U.S. seniors online have been the victim or target of at least one common online scam or hack. More than one-third (38 percent) report that someone has tried to scam them online, and 28 percent of surveyed seniors have mistakenly downloaded a computer virus. Home Instead has partnered with the National Cyber Security Alliance to launch the national public education program, Protect Seniors Online.
"We understand the stress seniors feel when they perceive their financial security – and their independence – may be at risk," said Jeff Huber, CEO of Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care® network. "Unfortunately, we know scammers often target seniors. That's why we're committed to educating and empowering seniors to proactively protect themselves. Implementing simple cybersecurity best practices can go a long way in helping seniors protect sensitive information and reduce their risks online."
Learn How Scammers Operate and What to Do
Protect Seniors Online offers a quiz to see how well seniors can spot an online scam along with other free resources and tips. This is all in an effort to:
- help seniors understand how scammers operate
- get seniors to familiarize themselves with the most common scams targeted at them
- provide proactive steps seniors and caregivers can take to protect sensitive information
People can also sign up for a newsletter for ongoing helpful information.
5 Hottest Cyber Scams to Avoid
According to the National Cyber Security Alliance and the Better Business Bureau, the main cyber scams that older adults need to be aware of are:
- Tech support scams: These types of scams can appear as "pop-ups," that show up on computer screens and look like legitimate offers from reputable companies. They could be selling fake software or asking for remote computer access. They may install malware to steal personal and financial information.
- Tax scams: One IRS scam being perpetrated by email as well as mail is an official-looking notice CP2000 for the tax year in question. Scam emails may direct that an immediate payment be sent. If you get a notice like this, delete it immediately and call the IRS at 1-800-366-4484. The IRS will never reach out to you by email nor will they call demanding payment.
- Ransomware: This is a malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid. Prevent ransomware by ensuring your system has an up-to-date antivirus system. Also, never open suspicious emails from unknown senders, do not download attachments from senders you do not trust or suspicious emails, and avoid clicking on links in suspicious emails.
- False debt collectors: False debt collection emails often come as official-looking documents and the tone of the emails may be threatening and urgent. Do not respond, open any attachments or click on any links. Delete these emails. If you're concerned about whether you owe money, contact any creditors directly to find out if they sent the emails.
- Sweepstakes and charity scams: A sweepstakes scam often asks you to pay to receive your prize. Another version of this is a charity scam, asking you to help those in need. Sweepstakes and charities scams prey on emotions, and scam charities may have names similar to real charities. However, they usually cannot provide important documentation of their identity and mission, nor provide proof of tax-deductible contribution. If you believe the charity is legitimate, you can check it out by looking up the number and calling it.
Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance, explains that encouraging seniors to protect themselves online can go a long way in protecting sensitive identity and financial information. "Cyber security is about risk reduction. It's difficult to achieve perfect security. But you can help older adults work to make themselves a more difficult target," Kaiser said.