We have always been familiar with the tendency of frauds aimed at older adults – unscrupulous telemarketers who contact individuals who are frail, isolated, and lonely, befriending them for the intended purpose of obtaining bank account information and charge card numbers and then depleting funds. Or people who promise contest prizes and freebies as a means to entice unsuspecting senior citizens to purchase unwanted and unneeded items.
Fast forward to today’s scammers, who possess the additional tool of technology to swindle senior citizens. The truth is, in 2018 alone, the FBI estimates an unbelievable $649.2 million lost in online senior scams.
As reported by Donna Gregory, chief of the FBI’s Internet Complaint Crime Center, “The 2018 report shows how prevalent these crimes are. It also shows that the financial toll is substantial and a victim can be anyone who uses a connected device.”
The greatest financial losses were documented in three primary groups:
- Wire transfer requests via email
- Internet dating fraud
- Investment schemes
With the majority of older adults now online – about 67%, as reported by the Pew Research Center – awareness is key in being sure that seniors remain safe from internet fraud. Talk with senior loved ones about current scams, and share the following suggestions to be aware of in case a scammer should contact them:
- Do not supply personal and/or financial information to an online solicitor, regardless of how “official” the request may seem. The IRS, finance institutions, as well as other reputable businesses won’t ever ask for this info online.
- Avoid entering sweepstakes that advertise freebies, trial periods, or prizes in exchange for a purchase and/or a request for credit card information.
- Investigate the URL of websites being frequented, and only click through to those that are secure – specified by a prefix of https, instead of simply http.
- When in doubt, seek advice from the Better Business Bureau to verify the authenticity of an organization, and to determine if any problems have already been lodged against them.
- Don’t forget: if something seems too good to be true, it more than likely is!
- If a senior loved one is exploited by an online scammer, she or he (or a 3rd party) can submit a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center here.
Given that isolation is an important element in a senior loved one’s chances of being scammed, one step you can take today to help protect a lonely senior family member is to partner with Enhanced Home Care, the home health Kansas City families trust. Our reliable in-home caregivers provide friendly companionship to boost socialization, transportation to enjoyable events and excursions, and many other services that empower older adults to live and thrive safely at home.