Certain age groups are more vulnerable to online scams than others. Senior citizens, for instance, lag behind in digital literacy, which makes them easy targets for cyber fraud. Tech-savvy young people are equally at risk due to a lack of life experiences. Studies suggest that around 16% of youngsters experience a digitally initiated scam.
Needless to say, you have an important role to play in helping your family avoid online threats—especially in creating awareness and introducing digital safety tools.
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Creating Cyber Awareness
Today’s youngsters are tech natives. Having started their digital explorations at a very early age, they are far more comfortable with online tools, platforms, and services than the average adult. However, the more time they spend online, the higher their exposure to risks. And without sufficient life experiences, they could often struggle to identify threats.
Older adults, on the other hand, are typically indifferent to technological advances. Their tech-shy nature makes them extra prone to cyber scams. According to the National Council on Aging, government impersonations, fake sweepstakes and lotteries, phone scams, tech support fraud, and grandparent scams are the most common schemes elderly citizens encounter. Falling prey to any one of these could result in substantial financial losses. For retirees living off their life savings, the impact could be detrimental.
Education is critical for tackling these issues. Remember, you can’t always be there to protect your loved ones. So, gearing them with enough knowledge to ensure their own safety is important. For instance, share news stories to help them understand the diverse threats that lurk on the internet. Use statistics and trends to demonstrate the prevalence of online fraud.
In addition, help them learn the basics of cyber protection so they know how to identify and tackle scams. Here are the essential areas to cover:
Racketeers can initiate their schemes through a variety of means—from social media, forums, and online ads to spoofed websites and emails.
Here are some of the common signs that could give away these threats:
- Requests for personal information, including phone numbers, addresses, SSNs, passwords, bank account and credit card information, and tax file details.
- Spelling and grammar mistakes and incorrect language use in communications.
- Overly edited photos.
- Requests that appeal to your emotions, such as fear, greed, love, and empathy.
- An unusual sense of urgency.
If there are any signs of fraudulent activity, it is important not to engage.
- Avoid responding to messages and emails or sharing personal information.
- Do not entertain requests for money. Keep in mind that most scams are financially motivated. In 2022 alone, Americans lost nearly $8.8 billion due to them.
- Never click on shared links, videos, and ads, even when sent by someone familiar.
- Minimize digital downloads, whether apps, movies, or free giveaways.
Creating a sense of familiarity is useful for building trust. So, many fraudsters impersonate reputed organizations or those personally known to victims. Others may simply pretend to be someone relatable. For example, criminals could disguise themselves as youngsters to befriend kids on gaming forums. They could also use similar tactics to deceive elderly victims in romance scams.
Understandably, verifying identities and authenticating communications is crucial to avoid such risks. Here are the steps your loved ones can take in this regard:
- Google the names of any unknown parties to find more details about them. Checking their social media profiles is also prudent.
- If someone shares a contact number with your relative, tell them to reverse search it on PhoneHistory to find out who it officially belongs to.
- Check email addresses and website URLs for discrepancies to ensure they are identical to the ones used by the individual or organization they claim to represent. An additional or missing letter, number, or special character should signal a hoax.
- Scan email attachments using a virus guard before downloading them.
- Hover the cursor on top of email links and check the web URL that appears next to them. If they don’t match, the link could be fraud-related.
- Before responding to an online request, tell your loved ones to contact the relevant person or organization using an official or verified number to check where it originated from.
Preventative measures will allow your loved ones to reduce their risk exposure. Help them understand the importance of:
- Minimizing their online data footprint.
- A cautious approach to sharing photos and personal details.
- Keeping identifiable and confidential information private.
- Password best practices.
Introducing Digital Guards
Elderly internet users will especially need your help in setting up effective tech barriers to ward off online scams. With youngsters, however, you may need to work together with them in showing the ropes and ensuring they are protected with sufficient safety mechanisms.
Here are the essential measures to implement:
- Update software on all devices, including phones, tabs, and personal computers.
- Install a caller ID app to help identify unknown callers. Most of these apps could also flag and block scam and spam numbers, providing dual protection.
- Set up a password manager to prevent your loved ones from writing down usernames and passwords and sharing them with others.
- Install reliable anti-virus software to protect devices.
- Download verified apps from reputed app stores.
- Check and disable data tracking and sharing features from devices, browsers, apps, and online accounts.
The rising advances of online scams leave no one spared. Senior citizens and young people, in particular, are at higher risk of falling victim.
So, your elderly parents and kids need your support to ensure their cyber safety. Awareness and education are, of course, imperative for building digital resilience against online fraud. Setting in place effective tech barriers is equally essential.
But remember to be supportive and patient when guiding your loved ones. Learning and navigating the digital environment could be extra challenging, especially for older adults.
Moreover, check in regularly to see where they need your help. Keep an eye on strangers in their lives. Encourage them to reach out to you when they encounter any suspicious activity or if they think they have fallen victim to an online scam. Also, don’t forget to report fraudulent behavior to the Federal Trade Commission and your local police.