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How to Prevent Being Scammed: Advice for Seniors

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How to Prevent Being Scammed: Advice for Seniors

by Faith McNamara

As our world becomes increasingly digitised, it is becoming easier for scammers to take advantage of vulnerable people, especially the elderly. With the rise of online and over-the-phone scams, it is more important than ever to take steps to protect our elderly loved ones from falling victim to these fraudulent schemes.

According to a report by Age UK, 43% of people aged 65 and over (almost five million people) believe they have been targeted by scammers. 41% of all crimes reported to the police are scam-related with only 1% of the police force tasked with solving these crimes.

Guardian Carers spoke with Jorij Abraham, the General Manager of the Global Anti-Scam Alliance (GASA). Their mission is to create a world where people are safe from the financial and emotional trauma caused by online scams.

We discussed the vulnerability of seniors when it comes to online and telephone scams and how older people often feel ashamed and embarrassed by being scammed so they may not report the fraud. In this article, we share some tips to help protect the elderly from online and over-the-phone scams.

Educate seniors on common scams

Scams are unfortunately a prevalent issue in today’s digital age, and they can affect anyone, regardless of age or technological literacy. However, by educating your older loved ones about the various types of scams and patterns they follow, you can empower them to recognise and avoid these fraudulent schemes.

Talking with Jorij Abraham, he spoke about the many ways strangers can scam you. Here are some common scams that everyone should be aware of:

  • Fake Tech Support Calls: Scammers often pose as representatives from well-known tech companies and contact individuals claiming there is a problem with their computer, internet connection, or software. They try to convince unsuspecting victims to provide remote access to their devices or share sensitive information like passwords or credit card details. It’s essential to emphasise that legitimate tech support companies will not proactively call individuals unless they have initiated contact.
  • Lottery or Prize Scams: In these scams, individuals receive a call, email, or message informing them that they have won a significant sum of money or a valuable prize. The scammers typically request personal information and payment for processing fees or taxes to release the winnings. Remind your loved ones that legitimate lotteries or contests will never ask for money upfront. It’s essential to be cautious when dealing with unexpected prizes.
  • Phishing Emails: Phishing is a common scam where individuals receive fraudulent emails that appear to be from reputable organisations like banks, social media platforms, or online retailers. These emails often ask for personal information, such as login credentials or credit card details. Advise your elderly loved ones to verify the sender’s email address, avoid clicking on suspicious links, and refrain from sharing personal information through email unless they are certain of its authenticity.

Encourage your elderly loved ones to be sceptical

It’s important to remind your elderly loved ones that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

  • Encourage them to be cautious about sharing personal information.
  • Emphasise the importance of safeguarding personal details like national insurance numbers, credit card information, and passwords.
  • Remind them that legitimate organisations will rarely ask for sensitive information through unsolicited phone calls, emails, or messages.
  • Many phone scams come from unknown numbers. Encourage your elderly loved ones to use caller ID to screen their calls and only answer the phone if they recognise the number.

GASA is an organisation that aims to unite governments, law enforcement agencies, consumer protection organisations, financial authorities and providers, brand protection agencies, social media platforms, internet service providers, and cybersecurity companies. Together, they collaborate to exchange knowledge and establish collective strategies to safeguard consumers from falling victim to scams.

Advise limited social media usage

Social media can be a fun way for seniors to stay connected with friends and family, but it can also be a breeding ground for scammers. Encourage your elderly loved ones to limit the personal information they share on social media and to be cautious of friend requests from people they don’t know.

One of the most painful social media scams is called pig butchering: a scam involving the forming and maintaining of an online relationship that can span up to 12 months and encourages victims to pay money into a crypto account.

Though at first, they may see returns on investments, as soon as they put in their whole pension, their money is not returned. This has resulted in suicides due to the emotional distress of such a betrayal.

Abraham suggests never sending virtual friends money - that’s both in investments as well as money to travel to meet you. Scammers will never meet you in person. Though the term pig butchering is seemingly harsh, it reflects the metaphor of fattening a pig for slaughter - to be friendly until they can steal your life savings.

Encourage them to stay up to date on scams

Scammers are always coming up with new ways to trick people. Encourage your elderly loved ones to stay up-to-date on the latest scams by reading articles and blogs about online security.

For elderly people who live alone or are particularly vulnerable, a call screening service can provide an added layer of protection. These services will answer your loved one’s phone and filter out suspicious or fraudulent calls.

Guardian Carers also spoke with Adam Carter, the Senior Project Officer at Friends Against Scams. Friends Against Scams is a dedicated organisation that empowers individuals to safeguard themselves and their loved ones from scams.

They achieve this by offering awareness sessions, which equip participants with essential knowledge and strategies to counter fraudulent schemes. Moreover, they actively strive to increase awareness about scams within communities.

By participating in the Friends Against Scams awareness session, individuals gain the necessary tools to recognise and prevent scams effectively. This comprehensive session covers a wide range of scam-related topics, including identifying common scam patterns, understanding the techniques employed by scammers, and learning practical strategies for protection.

Additionally, Friends Against Scams places great emphasis on community involvement. They encourage participants to engage with their communities and raise awareness about scams actively.

By sharing the knowledge acquired from the awareness session, individuals can help educate others and contribute to a collective defence against scams. Friends Against Scams believes that by empowering individuals and fostering a community-driven approach, the impact of scams can be significantly reduced.

It’s crucial to take proactive measures to safeguard your elderly loved ones from online and over-the-phone scams. By emphasising education and raising awareness, we can provide them with the necessary tools to protect themselves.

Engaging in conversations with your loved ones about online safety and phone scams is a vital step towards building a strong defence against scammers. Together, we can ensure their well-being and help them navigate the digital world securely.

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