How to Keep Elder Parents Safe from Online Scams

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I have my bi-monthly visit with mi Madre every Saturday, and while I’m there we go through all of the mail that comes in and also any messages she may have for me to help make return calls.  It never fails; there are usually notes of names of people that have called to offer her all types of services.  For example, reduction in home mortgage interest rates, new cell phone services, credit card offers, anti aging products, and all sorts of interesting callers.  This month, as we head in to the months of giving and Holidays around the corner, I thought it would be wise to post about online safety of our #SuperSenior.

A 2014 Pew Research study found that about 60% of Americans over 65 were online and that number is likely higher now. Seniors use the Internet and smartphones just like younger people: to pay bills, make travel arrangements, get health information, keep in touch with friends and loved ones, engage in civic or political activism and, of course, socialize. There are even plenty of seniors engaged in online dating, sometimes after a long marriage. Seniors are very likely to go online to get medical information or interact with government agencies, such as Medicare or Social Security.

I found a great free download guide published by ConnectSafely, The Senior’s Guide to Online Safety, this tool is full of stay safe tips, if you have a #SuperSenior in your life, it’s wise to take a look and share.

Our friends at Tech50plus have round up some great tips on scams. Seniors should be aware of existing scams, so everyone can be safe online. Here are eight of the most common elder scams circulating the web.

Utility Scams

Utilities like water, electricity, and gas require monthly payments, and scammers often take advantage of forgetfulness to squeeze extra money from utility users. Notices of non-payment and imminent shut-off of vital utilities often elicit a prompt transfer of funds. After receiving such a notice, users should contact their utility providers rather than mindlessly paying.

Medicare Scams

Seniors receive more health care than other sectors of the population, making fake notices about unpaid health bills more believable. Worse, any U.S. citizen over 65 is automatically enrolled in Medicare, which means these scammers don’t have to investigate victims much before attacking. The fear of losing health care when one needs it most compels most seniors to pay up fast.

Counterfeit Prescriptions

Similarly, scammers can advertise cheap prescription drugs online, collecting payments from seniors looking to save money while never intending to mail out legitimate drugs. Not only does this scam endanger seniors’ finances, but it can severely harm seniors’ health — especially if they run out of vital drugs before they recognize the scam.

Funeral Scams

The bereaved are particularly susceptible to scams. Heartless thieves will often contact survivors and claim the deceased owed them money. Alternatively, scammers might send out fake invitations to funerals and collect the condolence checks that come flooding in. Even funeral homes can be involved in shady dealings, so it is vital seniors get everything in writing and confirmed before offering money.

Fake Anti-Aging Products

Our culture’s obsession with youth drives many aging seniors to invest wantonly in anti-aging products. Purported miracle creams and age-reversing elixirs rarely work; even legitimate products found in the store rarely have much effect. Still, online ads for phenomenal age-defying results often net a surprising number of victims.

IRS and Social Security Scams

Older adults are likely to pay taxes and receive some form of social security aid, making them safe targets for this scam. Notices that users need to update their tax or social security information – providing exceedingly private information like social security numbers, addresses, and payment accounts – should be scrutinized and investigated before response.

Sweepstakes and Lotteries

Few seniors would say no to a cash windfall, so some scammers send notifications informing seniors of their “recent lottery win.” It is important that seniors remember that almost no lottery contacts winners – especially not winners that can’t remember entering. Further, lotteries never require winners to make cash deposits before they can collect. Any lottery that does this is a scam.

Grandparents Scams

In this scam, criminals pose as grandchildren trapped in terrible situations, often in foreign countries or prison. The scammers request seniors wire them money to help them out, so they don’t have to call their parents. Because grandparents often dote on their grandkids, this is a wildly successful scam that has been in use for several years.

If someone wants money or information by phone, get their phone number and tell them you will call them back.  Chances are they won’t give it to you.  If it’s from an online source, check it out before responding.  Track down their website, reach out to the Better Business Bureau or to a state or local consumer protection agency.

Don’t let the #SuperSenior in your life fall in to any of these scams. It’s important to monitor their mail, messages, social feeds, etc.