Top 5 Hottest Senior Cyber Scams

You have to admit, when it comes to online fraud, scammers are smart, creative and versatile. And seniors don’t always have confidence in their abilities to protect themselves against those cunning criminals, according to research conducted by Home Instead Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care® network. Those surveyed seniors describing themselves as “very confident” about their ability to safely engage in different online activities never rose above 32 percent in the survey.

But seniors should feel confident tapping into their experiences to help them discern what’s real and what isn’t, says Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance. “Older adults often have built-in defenses that tell them if something is real or fake. They can use that life experience to help sort out a scam.”

So take heart, and arm yourself with knowledge. Take the “Quiz: Can You Spot an Online Scam?” to become better equipped.

According to experts at the National Cyber Security Alliance and the Better Business Bureau, following are five of the hottest cyber scams that older adults need to avoid:

  1. Tech support scams: There’s nothing worse than being told your computer isn’t working correctly. These types of scams can manifest themselves as “pop-ups” that appear on your computer screen and look like legitimate offers for computer service or help. In addition, criminals could get your telephone number and call to claim they are representing a reputable company such as Microsoft. Perhaps they’re selling fake software. They ask for remote access into your computer and, potentially, credit card information. They then encourage you to install malware that might steal your personal information and data. If there’s a high-pressure pitch to take urgent action, that’s a red flag. If you get such a call, it is best to hang up and call the company yourself to verify the person on the telephone is legitimate.

  2. Tax scams: The tax season provides another window of opportunity for online fraudsters to take action. One IRS scam being perpetrated by email as well as mail is an official-looking notice CP2000 for the tax year in question. The IRS does issue such a notice when income or payment information doesn’t match information on your tax return. The scam letter instructs that payment be sent to an Austin, Texas, post office box. If you get a notice like this, it is best to delete it immediately and call the IRS at 1-800-366-4484. The IRS will never reach out to you by email nor will they call demanding payment.

  3. Ransomware: One of the most frightening forms of online fraud is ransomware, a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid. One of the best ways to help prevent this from happening is to ensure your system has an up-to-date antivirus system. Also, never open spam emails from unknown senders, do not download attachments from spam or suspicious emails, and avoid clicking on links in suspicious emails to help avoid these types of scams.

  4. False debt collectors: False debt collection emails oftentimes come as official-looking documents and the tone of the emails is threatening and urgent. (“The opportunity to take care of this voluntarily is coming to an end,” one scam email read. “We would hate for you to lose the option of resolving this before it goes to the next step, which is a lawsuit.”) Consider these tips to avoid these types of scams: Do not respond to these emails, open any attachments or click on any links. Delete these emails. If you’re concerned about whether you owe money, contact any creditors directly to find out if they sent the emails.

  5. Sweepstakes scams: If you’re living on a fixed income, it could be exciting to think you may have won a large sum of money. A sweepstakes scam often will want you to pay to receive your prize. By the same token, you could have a giving heart that always wants to help those in need. That’s great, but be sure to check out all charities before you give. Sweepstakes and charities scams prey on emotions. Scam charities often have names similar to real charities. However, they usually cannot provide important documentation of their identity and mission nor can they provide proof of tax-deductible contribution. Another clue that a scam attempt is in progress is if the email comes from a free account such as gmail or hotmail. Charity scams often will ask for bank or credit card information. If you believe the charity is legitimate, you can check it out by looking up the number and calling it.

Always be on the alert for potential scams. Check out the issues that could make you more vulnerable to scams.

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