Protecting Your Loved Ones From Internet Scams

Family and friends doing a video conference on laptop at home
October 14th, 2016

One of the most difficult (and increasingly important) duties of caregiving today is protecting your parents or other loved ones from Internet scams that so often target seniors. You’re probably familiar with Internet scams — after all, these issues are hot topics for everyone today. The Internet Crime Complaint Center, run jointly by the FBI and the nonprofit National White Collar Crime Center, receives more than 300,000 complaints of fraud each year. This translates to more than $485 million for fraudsters in 2011 alone. What you may not expect, however, is the risk that such scams pose to your aging loved ones.

What can you do to keep your family safe from Internet fraud?

Reducing Risk

Telemarketing fraud has long targeted seniors, but Internet scams have only recently begun to exploit this population. More seniors use computers today than ever before, so this trend is only expected to increase. Common online scams targeting seniors include credit card scams, non-delivery of items ordered, counterfeit goods, and get-rich-quick schemes.

Cybercrime is evolving every day — and keeping track of all of these scams is impossible. Luckily, there are ways to spot a scam, and most have a number of red flags to look for. Teach these four tips to the seniors in your life to arm them with the knowledge necessary to avoid becoming victims:

  • Don’t accept unsolicited offers. This is perhaps the easiest way to avoid becoming a victim.
  • Do not let anyone pressure you into making a decision, especially where signing contracts or making a purchase is concerned. They may offer special gifts or say it’s a limited time offer, but what you might save is simply not worth what you could lose.
  • Make sure you have as much as information as you need before agreeing to anything. Being an informed consumer has never been more important than in the Internet age. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • If in doubt, ask. Encourage older adults to talk things over with a family member or close friend who is more knowledgeable about the topic.

Encourage an Open Dialogue

In addition to helping your aging loved one learn the risks of online fraud, it is important to make sure they know they can always talk about their experiences with you. Seniors may be less likely to talk openly about becoming victims for several reasons. For instance, they may be embarrassed when they realize they’ve been scammed, or they may fear that you will no longer trust them to live independently or to manage their own finances. If they know you will assist them without judgment, they may be more likely to talk openly with you about these matters.

Protecting your loved one from Internet scams is one of the newest, most important tasks to be added to the list of duties of a caregiver. American seniors lose millions of dollars each year to scammers who target them online. For more information on protecting your loved one from Internet fraud and other scams that target seniors, the FBI’s Common Fraud Schemes offers a wealth of information.