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Cybersecurity for Seniors: Tips for Avoiding Online Scams
Elder Care

Cybersecurity for Seniors: Tips for Avoiding Online Scams


Help them protect their money, information, & the life they worked so hard to build with these cybersecurity tips

In 2022, the Federal Trade Commission reported that adults 60 and older lost $1.6 billion to scams. But since many seniors don’t report their financial losses, the true number is estimated to be somewhere around $48 billion. 

As technology advances and criminals develop new defrauding strategies, cybersecurity for seniors is only becoming more important.

And, as a caregiver, the essential tips and information in this article can help you prevent your loved one from becoming a victim.


Common Scams to Look Out for

First, you need to know what you’re up against. 

On the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) official website, they have a page about cybersecurity for seniors that lists the most common elder fraud scams, which are as follows:

  • Romance scams – A particularly twisted brand of fraud, romance schemes involve scammers acting as romantic interests on dating sites or social media. Over time, they gain the trust of their victims and eventually coerce them into providing personal information, sending money, etc. 
  • Tech support scams – Scammers often pose as tech support employees of banks or other organizations to gain access to victims’ computers to steal their money and information.
  • Grandparent scams – Criminals take advantage of elderly victims’ desire to take care of their loved ones by pretending to be a grandchild in financial distress. They typically make the situation sound dire and ask for immediate financial assistance. With advancements in AI voice cloning, this scam has become much more difficult to catch.
  • Government impersonation scams – Scammers act as government representatives and threaten to take legal action or even arrest victims if they don’t send money or information.
  • Sweepstakes, charity, or lottery scams – Scammers posing as employees of lottery companies or charitable organizations tell victims they’ve won cash prizes, but they need to pay a fee to collect them.
  • TV and radio scams – Scammers make fake ads for real services on the radio or TV to lure unaware victims into paying for things like reverse mortgages or credit repair that they never receive.


Help Them Stay Informed

Cybersecurity for seniors is all about vigilance and preparation. Unless they’re tech savvy, your elderly loved one likely won’t know all the schemes that scammers have up their sleeves.  

So, it’s up to you to make sure they know about the above tactics and keep an eye out for the latest cybersecurity threats that target older adults. 

To ensure they’re prepared, set a time to sit down and talk with your senior about schemes they need to look out for. For example, AI voice cloning can be very convincing for older adults who aren’t familiar with the technology, so you may want to create a family verification system to defend against grandparent scams. This could look like a simple text or call to you, their caregiver, or the person supposedly asking money to find out whether the situation is real or fake.

And whenever you learn something new, whether from an online article or TV news report, be sure to update your loved one so they know what to expect.


Help Them Protect Their Personal Information

Make sure your loved one knows never to share their personal or financial information with anyone online—whether they’re emailing, texting, surfing the web, or on social media.

The only websites that should have access to this information are those of official organizations like their bank, insurance company, etc. If they’re unsure whether an email or text is from a trustworthy source, let them know they can always contact the company to verify or call you for help.


Secure All Accounts With Strong Passwords & Two-Factor Authentication

Nowadays, you and your loved ones should have two-factor authentication enabled on every account that allows it.

Strong (and unique) passwords will go a long way toward protecting your information, but these can be leaked in data breaches, which are surprisingly common these days. According to Harvard Business Review, there was a 20% jump in data breaches from 2022 to 2023.

So, as important as strong passwords are, it’s crucial to set your elderly loved one up with the second line of defense that two-factor authentication provides. 

Although it may seem tedious and inconvenient to have to type in a password and a passcode every time they log in, having their account breached and information stolen will be far more inconvenient in the long run.


Watch Out for Suspicious Texts & Emails

Have a chat with your loved one about what to look out for when they’re checking their emails and text messages. 

Rule number one: Don’t trust unfamiliar numbers or email addresses.

Scammers often make contact with older adults posing as official employees of trusted companies, banks, and government entities. 

A great example of this is Amazon shipping notification scams. Your loved one might receive a message from someone claiming to be Amazon Customer Service, saying things like:

  • “We temporarily placed your account on hold. To restore, follow the instructions below: [link].”
  • “Your card will be charged $500 for your last order (Order#12345). Contact customer care immediately at [link].
  • “There was a problem with the delivery of your order. Track your package here: [link].

These scam emails and texts often include links that, when clicked on, take the victim to a mock site that looks nearly identical to that of the official business. From there, the victim types in their information, and the scammer gets everything they need.

But when you teach your loved one what these phishing scams look like, they can learn to recognize and avoid them. Even better than simply describing them, you can google some examples to give them a clear image of what to look out for.


Set Them Up With Security Software

Sometimes, even the most vigilant internet user can be caught off guard by a new or unexpected scam. That’s where antivirus and antimalware software comes in.

Whether your loved one is tech-savvy or not, cybersecurity software provides an invaluable line of defense that can detect and eliminate threats before they have the chance to cause trouble.


Learn How to Report a Scam

If your loved one is targeted by a scammer or becomes a victim of elder fraud, knowing how to respond can potentially mitigate the damage and prevent the criminal from hurting anyone else.

To report a scam, the FBI recommends calling your local FBI field office, submitting a tip on their website, or using their Internet Crime Complaint Center

Per their website, they also recommend sharing as much information about the encounter as possible, including:

  • Names of the scammer and/or company
  • Dates of contact
  • Methods of communication
  • Phone numbers, email addresses, mailing addresses, and websites used by the perpetrator
  • Methods of payment
  • Where you sent funds, including wire transfers and prepaid cards (provide financial institution names, account names, and account numbers)
  • Descriptions of your interactions with the scammer and the instructions you were given


Cybersecurity for Seniors: The Ongoing Battle

Cybercriminals devise new and clever ways of defrauding people all the time. That’s why, as a caregiver, it’s vital to keep your finger on the pulse of cybersecurity threats and watch out for new developments.

As long as you stay sharp and use the tips we just discussed, you can give your elderly loved one the best chance of avoiding these schemes and protecting their livelihood.

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