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Top Five Ways Cyber Criminals Fraud Seniors

Protecting Seniors from Cybefrauds

The estimated losses due to elder financial abuse range widely. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC32018 Internet Crime Report shows that people 60 and older submitted more than 62,000 fraud complaints in 2018 with losses totaling nearly $650 million. Some less conservative sources estimate that fraud against seniors, or what’s known as elder financial exploitation (EFE), costs families in the U.S. upwards of $36 billion per year. Research shows that as seniors age, they’re more likely to sustain higher average losses to senior financial scams. Here are some precautions to take:

How to Avoid Crooks Stealing from You Online 

  • Use two-factor authentication which means you need a password, passcode or a fingerprint, or facial scan to confirm access and then receive a one-time code to your mobile phone to type in.​
  • Reputable anti-malware that’s updated often can identify, quarantine, delete and report any suspicious activity coming into your computer or flag sensitive information going out. And make sure you protect your smartphone as well.​
  • Credit-card companies and banks can push notifications to mobile devices if something looks suspicious during a purchase. Be sure to review bank statements to ensure security.​
  • Never conduct financial transactions online such as banking, trading or shopping when you’re using a public computer in an airport lounge, hotel or library or when you’re using a public Wi-Fi network at a coffee shop.

Tech Support Schemes

  • Tech support scams usually start with a phone call or a pop-up warning of a computer problem that gives a number to call. Callers often claim to be affiliated with Microsoft or Apple – they may even spoof caller ID to make it look like one of these companies really is calling. In another twist, scammers get people who actually do need computer help to call them by posting phony customer support numbers for well-known companies online.​
  • Scammers then convince people to hand over remote access to their computers and then make a big show of “troubleshooting.” They may open system folders or run scans that seem to show evidence of a problem. ​
  • Scammers finally ask for money for supposed repairs and things like bogus service contracts. Credit cards were the top method of payment people said they used, and that’s good news – credit card companies can reverse fraudulent charges. But many others said the scammer convinced them to pay by giving the PIN numbers on the back of gift cards, often iTunes or Google Play cards. For most in this group, the money is simply gone.
  • Never give control of your computer to a third party unless you know it is the representative of a computer support team you contacted.
  • Legitimate tech support companies don’t call out of the blue. A popular way for thieves to get in touch with victims is through cold calls. The callers often claim to be from a tech company. But remember that scammers can spoof official-looking phone numbers, so don’t trust your Caller ID.
  • Look out for warning screens. Nearly half of tech support scams begin with an alert on the victim’s computer screen. This pop up will have a phone number to call for help. Don’t call them.
  • Be wary of sponsored links. When you search online for tech support, look out for sponsored ads at the top of the results list. Many of these links lead to businesses that scam consumers.​
  • Don’t click on links in unfamiliar emails. Scammers also use email to reach victims. These messages point consumers to scam websites that launch pop-ups with fake warnings and phone numbers.

What To Do if Scammed

  • If you’ve been scammed, change any passwords you shared and scan your computer for malware.
  • If you gave your credit card number, tell the credit card company. Check your statement and contact your credit card company to reverse the charges for bogus services.​
  • If you later get a call about a supposed refund, you can bet that’s part two of the same scam – hang up.

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