When the internet first went online, smart browsing meant not talking to strangers and being wary of giving out personal information. These days, it takes a lot more to stay safe online.
The number and types of digital scams in today’s internet age are astounding. While many of them don’t target specific populations, some specifically prey on certain groups, such as older adults or children.
Such scams are often characterized by specific messages and goals, whether it’s to trick you into divulging bank account information or get your passwords to bank accounts and apps.
The Most Common Types of Online Scams
The good news is that there are several simple ways for everyone, including older adults, to stay safe online and protect their finances from scammers. Retirees can lean on family members to help them discern between fake and legitimate emails, or they can hire a financial advisor or licensed fiduciary to help.
However, one of the most important ways to stay safe is to learn how to recognize digital scams.
Fake Shopping Websites
Thousands of websites are designed to look and function just like legitimate shopping websites. These sites make visitors believe they’re doing business with real companies and being offered hot deals on brand-name items.
In reality, these sites are scam shops set up to trick unsuspecting shoppers into ordering products that aren’t available. The scammers already have your money when you realize you’ve been duped.
To spot fake shopping websites, look for brand names and URLs that are similar but not identical to the brands the scammers are imitating (such as “Wal-Mart” or “Giucci.com”). These sites are also likely to contain spelling errors elsewhere or claim to offer deals “not available anywhere else.”
Formjacking occurs when hackers take control of legitimate websites to steal credit card information. Cybercriminals sometimes try to direct consumers to a different URL that looks like a real payment page when it’s a form that sends your information right to them.
When you enter your credit card information, check the URL and make sure you’re still on a legitimate website. Cybercriminals typically make very subtle changes to the URLs of scam payment pages, so keep a sharp eye.
Tech Support Scams
In tech support scams, swindlers use phone calls, advertisements, and emails to impersonate tech support experts, telling users their devices are infected and giving them instructions for fixing the problem.
The scammers use these instructions to gain access to the person’s device and steal information from it. They might also ask for money to correct the issue.
Any legitimate company, be it Android, Apple, Microsoft, or Google, will never contact you directly to tell you something is wrong with your device. Always double-check the phone numbers given, and never give money to anyone making suspicious claims about the state of your devices.
If you receive a “tech support” email asking you to click on any link, don’t do it. Instead, go directly to the company’s website to validate all claims.
Unfortunately, some scams specifically target older adults, counting on their naivety and lack of familiarity with newer technologies. While these scams can fool anyone, they tend to be most successful when directed at seniors. They include:
A scammer pretending to be someone they’re not will start a relationship with you, convince you of their fondness for you, and then attempt to extract financial support from you. Once you give them money, they’ll abruptly cut off all communication.
Fake solicitors pretend to work for charities, appeal to your good nature, and urge you to donate to whatever cause they claim to be championing. Of course, these causes often don’t exist, and even when they do, you can be sure that your money isn’t making it to them.
In this insidious scam, the con artist pretends to be one of the victim’s grandchildren, saying they’re in trouble and need emergency money transferred immediately without their parents being informed.
Contest Winner Scams
Retirees receive an email stating that they’ve won a contest, and to claim their prize, they need to submit their personal information, including sensitive payment details.
Protecting Yourself from Scams
Staying safe in the digital world requires constant diligence and discretion. Remember: if a scenario seems too good to be true, or you have any doubt about its legitimacy, it could very well be a scam.
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