Technology is a boon for all the right reasons. It allows people to undertake several functions online, including those involving financial transactions, like online payments on shopping portals, paying utility bills, and the like. The convenience and ease that the internet offers is immense. Nonetheless, there’s a flip side to this scenario. Online scams have become more frequent. As people, especially seniors, depend more and more on technology and the use of the internet for everything from online banking to grocery shopping, scammers focus on the elderly as easy targets. This is because, senior citizens have retirement savings, and very often, you’ll find them living on their own, which turns them into vulnerable targets.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to beat fraudsters and scammers. You should just know what to watch out for and be on your guard.
The Susceptibility of Senior Citizens
The lack of digital knowledge places senior citizens in a position of vulnerability and scammers know this. Examples include bugs and pop-ups, ransomware, scams involving phishing and attempts being made to rob identities through fake emails and web portals.
Several acts of fraud are conducted over telephones, mobile phones, online or even, door-to-door. As far as financial scams go, the elderly may be targets of schemes related to credit cards, contests, charities, health-related finances, investments, wire transfers, insurance and banking.
The Fraudster’s Tactics
You should know that a scammer is a clever person whose job is to trick you into believing in them. Fraudsters can appear sympathetic, friendly, overly helpful and the like. In other personal interactions, they have been known to be downright threatening, playing on the fear of the aged. The fraudster’s primary strategy is a manipulation of circumstances, in order to get what they want.
Rise in targeted online scams
The top online scams that have affected senior citizens majorly these days, are the following:
- The Scam of Antivirus Software – These days, senior citizens spend a lot of their time surfing the internet. Furthermore, many purchase something from the plethora of online e-stores. At times (more often than not), you may click on a link accidentally. This may redirect you to a different webpage/website. Here, you may be shown false warnings and messages about your antivirus software. You may get a request to download new software to “solve” your problem. As soon as you download this, you are giving access to fraudsters to get your personal information.
- Lottery Fraud – A very common type of online fraud is lottery fraud. This is a classic scam. Basically, it involves you receiving a simple message of congratulations, telling you that you’ve won a lottery gift. To claim your gift, however, you’re told to transfer huge amounts of money as a “transfer charge” or a “processing fee”. Via this route, lottery scams trick gullible citizens into giving away their savings.
- Vishing Scams – Vishing (voice phishing) scams have become really frequent of late. It starts with a phone call from a scamster pretending to be someone else. They use the call to retrieve personal information from people. Fraudsters use clever tactics to compel people to share private information that gives them online access to personal bank accounts, credit cards and such. One example you should keep an eye out for is the Covid-19 vaccine scam. Fraudsters claiming to be from Drug Authority of India are calling senior citizens to confirm their Aadhaar and OTP for Covid-19 Vaccine allocation.
- Scam of Tech Support – Resembling the antivirus software scam, also indicates installing harmful and suspicious software within your computer or smartphone. For instance, you may get a call from fraudsters who claim they are executives of certain well-known companies. They may give you offers of free security check software which you need to download. This provides them with remote access to your device. Once the access is gained, fraudsters are able to install malware into your smartphone/computer, stealing vital information.
- Phishing Fraud – When scammers trick people into entering their details like passwords and usernames, the scam is called a phishing scam. An elderly person may receive a congratulatory email message that they’ve won a competition, or that their name has been picked for a prize. It may even take the form of an email of warning. Once you open the email, it contains links to false websites of fraudsters. If you take the bait and click on the link, you will be asked to enter personal details about your credit card, bank account or any other online information. Fake websites are used to gather information so fraudsters can make purchases on your behalf.
While technology has certainly made life easier and more convenient, it is rife with opportunities for tricksters to conduct fraud. Elders may not be familiar with online activity, so they could be easily susceptible. Scammers are always trying to steal money And here are some pointers that can help from falling prey to scammers:
- Banks and financial institutions never ask for your passwords, usernames, pins or any other sensitive details.
- You should never disclose your personal information like credit card number, pin number, etc. to anyone.
- Refrain from opening emails from unknown senders or those that seem dubious.
- Don’t trust emails that ask for your personal or sensitive information.
- If you get attachments from sources that aren’t known to you, do not open/download them.
- When you create a password, it should be unique. Strong passwords have a mix of lower case and upper case characters, along with a blend of numbers/symbols.
In case you think you have been the victim of fraud, you should immediately report it to a competent authority. As a vital step, you should contact your Bank’s call centre to report fraud, or the number on your card, and report any dubious incidents immediately. Your card will be blocked instantly. In this day and age, it is essential to stay up to date on the best practices when it comes to online security. In case you or someone you know falls for such a scam, it is best to report everything to the relevant authorities.