In today’s digital world, it’s crucial to be aware of the potential risks lurking online. Seniors are often targets of bad actors online who prey on anyone unfamiliar with internet scams. At Blue Skies of Texas just outside San Antonio, our Life Plan Community helps keep residents informed with digital literacy resources for anyone who wishes to learn and keep themselves safe online.
As technology continues to evolve, so do the tactics of online scammers. The tips in this article are designed to arm you with the knowledge and tools you need to recognize and avoid scams so your online experiences can be as secure and enjoyable as possible. Plenty of scammers are out there, but don’t let that deter you from the incredible benefits of using technology. Here’s how to protect yourself against the five most common cons aimed at seniors.
1. Email Phishing Scams
Phishing scams usually start with urgently worded emails from phony email addresses that pretend to be someone you might know. Deceptive messages posing as trusted sources lure you into revealing personal information or clicking links that install malicious software on your device. This scheme lets scammers access your personal information without you ever knowing it. Falling for a phishing scam can lead to financial loss and identity theft, not to mention the emotional distress you’ll suffer as the scammers’ tactics start to take effect.
To safeguard yourself, read about phishing risks and how to enable multi-factor authentication on your accounts. Raising your awareness can thwart phishing scams’ impacts and keep your personal information safe.
Prevention Tip: Never click on any link in an email from an untrusted sender.
2. Social Security Scams
If you’re retired, you might find yourself targeted by clever social security scams that take advantage of your trust and financial security. Scammers impersonate government officials and use fear tactics to demand immediate payments or personal information. A common version of the scam plays out by someone pretending to be a government worker alerting you of an issue with your social security benefits.
These scary-sounding calls and emails are designed to manipulate you into giving away sensitive data or making false payments. Stay vigilant and always verify the legitimacy of any requests
that come directly from an alleged government agency. Additionally, staying current on popular phone-based schemes can help you keep your assets safe. Remember, like the IRS, social security offices will only call you if you’ve initiated contact.
Prevention Tip: Never give personal financial information to anyone you don’t know, no matter who they claim to be.
3. Medicare Scams
Medicare scams pose a severe threat to your healthcare and financial stability. Never underestimate how much personal data is on medical bills and documents. Scammers will try to use your enrollment in Medicare to offer fake services, devices or coverage plans.
These fraudsters try to trick you into giving them personal information, which can lead to identity theft and fraudulent billing. By preying on your concerns about medical expenses, these ploys can also undermine your trust in the healthcare system. Always be skeptical when someone you don’t know asks specific questions about your medical history. Medicare does not contact people without being requested to do so. If you have concerns, it’s best to contact Medicare directly.
Prevention Tip: Never give anyone you don’t know personal medical information.
4. Online Shopping Scams
Sometimes a deal really is too good to be true. With more retail purchases placed online, millions of people are potential targets for online shopping scams—especially seniors.
These sophisticated scams will try to fool you with fake websites or ads offering enticing deals on popular items and allow you to “purchase” items like you would any other online store. The catch? The products never arrive. Online shopping fraud relies on a sense of urgency and taking advantage of a customer’s trust. If an unfamiliar store seems suspicious, it’s best to purchase from another website that’s more well-known.
Prevention Tip: Only make online purchases directly through trusted retailers.
5. Romance Scams
Romance scams targeting seniors are meant to exploit loneliness and trustworthiness. Perpetrators create fake online profiles posing as potential romantic companions and communicating through direct messaging (also known as a “DM” on social media sites).
By establishing an emotional connection, fraudsters can leverage this “relationship” to ask you for money for an urgent matter that doesn’t exist. After all, it’s hard to say no to people you
care for deeply, and it isn’t easy to imagine someone you care about trying to deceive you. As much as we all deserve and hope to find loving partners, it’s best to remain cautious of sudden online relationships and avoid sharing personal identifying information.
Prevention Tip: Never converse with anyone if you can’t verify their identity online or by phone.
In a world where technology and deception intersect, safeguarding yourself against scams is imperative. By creating awareness, education and open dialogue, everyone can be equipped with the necessary knowledge to navigate the digital landscape confidently and easily.
Empowering residents to use technology in a way that enhances their lives is something we take seriously at Blue Skies of Texas. Many of our residents spent their careers working with innovative tools and are happy to help their neighbors who aren’t as familiar.