Despite what you may think, iPads, social media, and online shopping aren’t just for younger generations. According to a Pew Research Study, 68% of Americans in their early 70s go online.
With more time to spend and ample downtime, research shows that seniors are using devices for activities like keeping in touch with friends and family through email and social media; browsing the internet; and downloading apps to play games and read books.
While they’re are seeing great benefit from being online, the elderly are one of the most targeted demographics for scammers and thieves. Poor judgement and lack of education leaves seniors more susceptible to being lured into fraud, identity theft, and online predators. Common ways seniors are targeted online include:
- Fake Charity Donations – Scammers will take advantage of the generosity of seniors by asking for money for made up charities and relief efforts for natural disasters.
- Tip: Encourage your loved one to research the charity before donating. If it doesn’t come up in a quick google search, or if it doesn’t have a legitimate website, chances are it could be fake. There are also online tools you can use to determine the trustworthiness of a charity such as Charity Watch, Charity Navigator, and GuideStar.
- Medication Delivery or Affordable Medication Sign Up – Due to rising costs of prescription drugs, seniors are looking to the Internet to search for cheaper medication. But many scammers are taking advantage of this by creating fake offers and websites for drugs that don’t exist.
- Tip: One way to detect a scam is if the company does not require a prescription in order to the medication. If there is no U.S. address or if there is no contact information listed on the website at all is also a red flag.
- Too Good to Be True Offers – While everyone wants to have won the lottery or a $100,000 car, truth is, you most likely didn’t. Many scammers use enticing offers to lure seniors in, then take advantage of their attention by asking for personal or financial information.
- Tip: If it’s too good to be true, it is.
Fortunately, as a family member, you can help your loved ones avoid being taken advantage of by scammers and online hackers. By educating your loved one on the dangers of the Internet, you won’t have to worry about their risk of running into fraud and scams.
When targeted, it’s important for seniors or family members to report the behavior to the local police’s fraud department or the state’s attorney general.