3 min read

Internet Safety for Seniors: How to Spot a Cyber Scam

Featured Image

Financial fraud is one of the fastest growing forms of senior abuse in America.

According to a 2019 report by the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, seniors suffered an average loss of $34,200 between 2013 and 2017. Of those affected, seniors ages 70 to 79 had the highest average monetary loss.

Unfortunately, these crimes often go unreported because the senior is either too confused or too embarrassed to report it.

To protect you and a loved one you care for from the dangers of financial fraud, familiarize yourself with the five most common types of cyber scams listed below.

1. Tech Support Scam

Tech support scams manifest themselves in the form of pop-ups that appear on computer screens. The pop-ups can be terribly intrusive, making it difficult for seniors to close out of the windows. The pop-ups typically display a message stating the computer has a virus, with a phone number for support. Scammers will call and claim to represent a reputable company like Microsoft, asking for remote access to the computer where they can access personal information.  

Safety Tip: If you or your loved one receives a call from tech support to take urgent action, hang up the phone. Call the company yourself to verify the person on the phone is legitimate. Restarting your computer can also help to remove any pop-ups that arise.

>>>Related resource: Secure your online accounts with these three free password management solutions.

2. Sweepstakes Scam

Winning a free trip or big check sounds like a dream, but it’s usually too good to be true. A sweepstakes scam starts with a call, email or postcard, offering congratulations for winning some contest or prize a senior may have never entered. The senior will be asked to pay customs, fees or taxes to claim the winnings. The scammer may also ask seniors to verify information using credit card or bank account numbers.

Safety Tip: If you or your loved one wins a contest or prize, read the fine print carefully. Legitimate sweepstakes will never ask you to pay fees to participate or receive a prize.

>>>Related resource: Learn 6 tips for traveling with a senior loved one.

3. Tax Scam 

During tax season, scammers will seek every opportunity to trick seniors out of their refunds by pretending to be an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) collection officer. Scammers will call or email to get taxpayers to share personal information to file fraudulent federal and state income tax returns. They will request personal information, like credit cards and social security numbers.

Safety Tip: The IRS will never call, text, email or contact you via social media—in fact, if there is an issue with your taxes, they will only send a certified letter by mail. If you or your loved one receives threatening messages regarding your taxes, do not click on any attachments or links, and never return threatening voicemails. 

4. Telemarketing Scam

Telemarketing scams often involve fraudulent selling of products and services over the phone. The scammer may tell seniors to act fast, or the offer won’t be good. They may also state that the senior won a free product or service, but has to pay shipping and handling, among other charges to receive it.

Safety Tip: Do not provide personal or financial information to unknown companies or persons over the phone or online. Legitimate companies won’t pressure you to make a snap decision.   

5. Grandparent Scam

The grandparent scam has been around for several years. In this approach, a scammer calls the elderly person and pretends to be their grandchild. The grandchild will then ask for money for unexpected financial problems like medical bills or car repairs. Instead of transferring money, the scammer will often ask the senior to mail money via cash or check.

Safety Tip: If you or your loved one receives a call like this, don’t act right away. Call your grandchild back using the correct phone number and verify their whereabouts. If you have sent money via mail, report it to the postal service right away.

Uncover More Tips for Caring for An Aging Loved One

There are many lessons to learn when caring for an aging loved one outside of just cyber scams. And many of these are a learn-as-you-go approach. But we’ve made it easy for you to set a solid foundation as a family caregiver.

Download our resource, The Comprehensive Guide for First-Time Family Caregivers, to learn how you can provide an aging loved one with the highest level of care.

Download our family caregiver guide


Recent Posts

Perspectives on Grief: Kent Berkheimer

This post is part of our Perspectives on Grief series, where we ask our caring staff members to share their personal experiences with grief. For more...

Read More

9 Winter Health Concerns and Senior Safety Tips

Throughout the winter months, snow, ice and cold temperatures can make life difficult for anyone—especially our aging loved ones.

Seniors run a...

Read More

Veteran Burial Benefits: Am I Eligible?

Serving in the U.S. Armed Forces is one of the most admirable ways to serve our country. That’s why laying a veteran to rest should be done with the...

Read More