Your senior years should be a time of rest and relaxation, when you can enjoy the money you’ve put away for retirement. Unfortunately, seniors tend to be prime targets for online scammers. Every year, innocent seniors in the United States are scammed out of more than $3 billion dollars by various fraudsters. Don’t be one of them! With a little research, you can learn how to avoid online scams and keep your money in your bank account where it belongs.
How to Avoid Online Scams
Know Your Risk
Seniors are targeted by online scammers for a few key reasons: they are often polite and trusting, they tend to own houses and have significant savings accounts, and they aren’t always aware of common scams. That’s why it’s important to educate yourself.
We know that scammers that target seniors online are most likely to reach out to you via spam email or fraudulent websites, and scammers will try to get you to trust them quickly with a sob story or an opportunity that seems too good to be true. They may ask for you to send money in an unusual way, like as a gift card or wire transfer as opposed to a check, and they may press you for information like account passwords, social security numbers, or other information. If something feels off about an online interaction and it has these characteristics, be careful and talk it through with a friend or loved one before you decide what to do next.
Know the Common Scams
When it comes to learning how to avoid online scams, forewarned is forearmed. Take some time to learn about the kinds of scams that are typically targeted to seniors. According to the National Council on Aging, the most common scams targeted towards seniors are Medicare and Medicaid fraud, scams related to funeral insurance or other funeral costs, fake anti-aging products, fake sweepstakes and investment schemes, and scammers pretending to be family members in crisis. Seniors are also common targets for “phishing” scams, where scammers will create fake email addresses and websites to trick you into thinking they’re contacting you on behalf of a real company and then ask you for sensitive information, like bank details or your social security number.
If you get approached with an opportunity related to any of the common scams above, be extra-cautious and do some research before proceeding. In addition, you should regularly check out resources like the FTC’s Consumer Information page for more up-to-date information about current scams targeting seniors.
Be Smart About Online Security
When considering how to avoid online scams, there’s an easy first step: making sure you’re already doing what you need to do to keep your accounts and information secure. This means you should have a different password for every account you access online, so if someone manages to get your password for one service, they will not be able to use that password to access anything else. Keeping a written list of passwords next to the computer may not seem like cyber security, but it will actually keep your information safer than using the same password every time (assuming you’re using a private computer). You should also be diligent about making sure you log out of websites after you have done your business there, especially if you’re on a computer in a public place. Practice good email hygiene by not clicking links or downloading attachments from emails unless you know who sent them, and never provide passwords or other secure information in the body of an email. Finally, make sure you have installed a good anti-virus software to protect yourself from hackers!
Be Ready to Report Scams
It can be embarrassing or frightening to admit that someone is trying to scam you. Many people are afraid it will make them look silly, or that nobody will be able to help them. However, the truth is that scammers actually prey on people’s fear of reporting them to get away with their schemes. There is nothing to be ashamed of if you have been targeted by a scammer, and reporting a scam is a great way to protect other seniors and maybe even stop the scam entirely. By reporting scammers, you can put authorities on alert and give them the chance to let other seniors know how to avoid online scams. If you can provide evidence about what happened to you, you can even help build the paper trail that puts scammers behind bars. Do your part by reporting suspected scammers to the appropriate authorities.
The idea of getting scammed online can be scary, but as you can see, there’s plenty you can do to avoid it. If you do your research and exercise caution on the internet, you can enjoy peace of mind and a healthy bank account well into your golden years!
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