The internet is a fantastic tool for seniors, as it provides the opportunity to stay in touch with family and old friends, as well as take advantage of the trove of information online. Though the web has plenty to enjoy, it can also be an unsafe place for unsuspecting individuals. Hackers and cybercriminals use email, fraudulent websites, and viruses to steal personal and financial information, as well as outright steal money. When retirees are the victim of an internet scam, they lose between $600 to $1100 on average. So, how can you surf the web without getting a fast one pulled on you? Here are some common ways to spot internet scams.
Someone You Don’t Know Is Contacting You
While the internet is often used to interact with new people, criminals use this cloak of anonymity as a way in with new marks. Often times it begins with an email or Facebook message from someone claiming to know you or have your best interests at heart. It may start innocently enough, but unless you’re sure of the identity of the person on the other end, it’s probably best to ignore them. Even if they have a Facebook profile, it’s possible that this was created as a ruse; experts estimate that there are nearly a billion fake Facebook profiles floating around.
The Offer Seems Too Good to Be True
Everyone dreams of the chance to get rich quick, and scammers take hearty advantage of this. If you’re receiving offers that promise financial reward – especially for things you haven’t signed up for – you can almost always bet that this is a scam. A common version of this scam is the “advanced transfer scam” in which someone claims they can deposit huge amounts of money into an account after you pay a transfer fee. They may claim you’re the beneficiary of a will, solicit for donations, set up fake websites, or explain that they have money tied up in foreign banks. Regardless, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
You’re Being Asked for Personal Information
A common fraud tactic is known as “phishing.” Scammers will contact individuals posing as a trusted source, such as a bank or email service, and ask for personal info. They may ask you to reset your password or provide financial information. However, it is highly unlikely that your bank will ever ask for you to send this kind of sensitive data via email, as this can be very insecure. If you’re being asked for a password or personal information, contact the company they claim to be and check with them directly. More often than not, they’ll be able to confirm they did not send this message and that it can be ignored.
Staying safe on the internet is an important issue for seniors, as is protecting valuable retirement savings. By keeping common themes of internet scams in the front of your mind – whether it’s an offer too good to be true, a person you don’t know contacting you online, or someone asking for personal information—you can safely use the internet and all the benefits that come with it.