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Elder Fraud Is Real—Tell Your Parents, Grandparents And Friends About These Scams

Kids, it’s time to have “the talk” with your parents and grandparents. 

Cybercrime costs Canadian seniors several billions in scams, according to CARP (Canadian Association of Retired Persons). The latest figures show elder fraud numbers are on the rise. 

This is also true south of the border, says the FBI, with a 62 percent increase from a year prior, according to its Elder Fraud Report. 

In fact, the number of victims could be much higher, as seniors are also less likely to report elder fraud. The Federal Trade Commission shows that while 44 percent of younger people in their 20’s reported losing money to fraud, only 20 percent of those in their 70’s did the same. 

The risks are wide-ranging, from fraudulent phone calls to phishing attempts via email, texts, social media messages, or shopping scams designed to dupe seniors out of their savings.  

“Romance scams” hit seniors too, with a recent story about a Calgary woman who lost nearly $800K in an online romance scam. 

Rise in attacks

The pandemic played a role in the increase of elder fraud abuse, believes Michael Jabbara, Vice President and Global Head of Fraud Services at Visa.

“It’s no surprise we’ve seen a massive shift over the years towards digital transactions, but with this shift there’s also an increase focus from fraudsters,” says Jabbara. “This is especially true for elder individuals who may be a target because of a lack of technical sophistication and because they don’t always report these crimes to authorities.” 

Seniors pay out more

Jabbara says “grandparent scams” are still a popular attack method. 

“This is where a fraudster spoofs a relative’s phone number and sends a message asking for money due to a medical emergency or text books,” he said 

Jabbara says Visa has invested more than $9 billion in anti-fraud measures over the over the last five years, including the use of artificial intelligence and advanced data analytics.

“Fraudsters are able to glean those personal details the grandparent posted pictures on Facebook or Instagram, allowing them to craft a very believable message,” Jabbara said. “Or in other cases, a family member’s account is hacked and a fraudster gets access to their email, they’ll target an elder family member with a similar plea for money or help. They play on their emotions.” 

Seniors also pay out more, on average, compared to younger victims. 

What should we do about elder fraud abuse? 

When it comes to protecting our loved ones, letting them know about these risk plays a big role. 

Jabbara says one of the best practices to fight back is to have a “tech check-in” with aging relatives, to go over these assorted tips. 

Share with care: Limit how much personal information you share online. Set your social media profiles to private. If someone asks to connect with you on social media, only accept their request if you know them. 
Be wary of “emergencies”: Your family or friends can easily be hacked to send out emails or text messages claiming to be urgently in need of cash or gift cards, scamming you out of money or gift cards. 
When in doubt, just ask: If you really think it could be your daughter or grandson reaching out, don’t confirm by replying to the message you received. Instead, reach out in another fashion, such as calling them. Chances are, it’s fake. Block and report the fraudulent message. 
Lock your devices: Use a passcode or fingerprint to lock your phone or tablet. If you have a computer, use a strong password that’s at least 12 characters long. 
Shop safer: Always use a secure Internet connection when making a purchase. Reputable websites use an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) that encrypt data during transmission. You will see a little padlock icon in your browser (and usually “https” at the front of your address bar to confirm it’s a secure connection). Only shop on sites that take secure payment methods, such as credit cards. 
Enable multifactor authentication: When it comes to logging into your online accounts, add a second layer of defense by enabling multifactor authentication, sometimes referred to as “two-factor authentication.” This means you not only need a password or passcode (or biometrics logon, like a fingerprint of facial scan) to confirm it’s you, but also a one-time code you’ll receive on your mobile phone to type in. 
Install good cybersecurity software: Just as you wouldn’t leave the front door to your home unlocked, you shouldn’t let your tech be vulnerable to attacks, whether it’s a virus or other malicious software, called “malware,” that sneaks onto your device or caused by being tricked into giving out sensitive information. 

Cybersecurity tools to prevent elder fraud 

Good antimalware that’s updated often can identify, quarantine, delete and report any suspicious activity coming into your computer or flag sensitive info going out. 

“Seniors have more important things to do than worry about than being protected online,” says Gagan Singh, Executive Vice President and Chief Product and Revenue Officer for cybersecurity company McAfee. 

McAfee Total Protection (from $39.99/year) was created to make it easy for everyone to confidently live life online no matter how much or little they know about technology and online threats including identity theft. 

“Our new product lineup includes tools that help people prevent identity theft and credit fraud, including credit monitoring, credit lock, removing their personal data online, identity monitoring, and website safety notifications,” says Singh. 

Avoid Wi-Fi Hotspots 

Resist free wireless Internet at coffee shops or airports. It’s best to wait until you’re on a secured Internet connection at home, or use your smartphone as a personal hotspot, which is safer than public Wi-Fi. If you must use a hotspot, never conduct any financial transactions – like online banking, trading or shopping – as you never know if your information is being tracked and logged. 

Use a VPN 

A VPN conceals your online identity by using encryption technology, therefore what you do and where you go online cannot be seen by your service provider, the government, search engine, browser company, social media sites, advertisers and malicious types. 

“VPN is an easy-to-use tool that helps users to make sure their network is secure at all times,” confirms Markuson. “For seniors, who sometimes find it hard to keep up with latest technology and cybersecurity trends, it is a perfect solution [as] VPN not only helps to stay safe while using public Wi-Fi, it also make sure user’s private data is safe from snooping.” 

NordVPN can be purchased starting at $5/month with a two-year subscription that includes three months for free. 

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