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A How-to Guide for Having “The Talk” with Your Elderly Parents … about Internet Safety

Identity Theft News

A How-to Guide for Having “The Talk” with Your Elderly Parents … about Internet Safety

The face of the Internet is decidedly more wrinkled than many would assume.

The Pew Research Center determined 59 percent of seniors use the Internet. Shockingly, a new report by Limelight determined on average, Baby Boomers – who are now in their 50s and 60s – spend more time online than their 18-33 year old counterparts in the Millennial generation.

"As we age, we naturally want to stay connected to friends and loved ones more and the Internet provides the easy means to do that, especially when those friends and family are geographically dispersed,” said Jason Thibeault, Limelight’s senior director of marketing strategy and author of the report.

Seniors at Higher Risk of Fraud

In most ways, this trend is very positive for society. The Internet allows the elderly, particularly those who are homebound, to maintain connections with their friends and family, to keep up with the news, and to purchase products and services that they may not otherwise be able to access. In fact, the Gerontological Society of America recently conducted a longitudinal study that “found a positive contribution of Internet use to mental well-being of retired older adults in the United States, where Internet use reduced the probability of a depression state by one third.”

However, in the same way that the elderly are at a higher risk of offline fraud, they can also easily fall victim to online scams. Tragically, a study by San Francisco-based TrueLink Financial revealed “seniors are losing $36.48 billion every year to senior fraud, exploitation and financial abuse—more than 12 times the most widely reported previous estimate.” Additionally, the report determined 36.9 percent of seniors lose money to scams, exploitation, and abuse in any given five-year period. Of these, 6.9 percent lose $10,000 or more.

“Two trends are going to define the future of fraud: the advancing age of the average American and the increasing use of the Internet among seniors,” says Jeff Bell, CEO of LegalShield. “We are committed to partnering with families to protect one of our nation’s most precious resources: our elders.”

How Scams Work



To avoid a scam, it is helpful to understand how one is put together. Our partners at Kroll, the global risk mitigation leader that powers IDShield, offer this outline of the basic components of a scam:

1. Contact information is collected. The scammer has obtained some of your personal identifying information (PII) which might include, name, email address, phone number, address, and/or other information they will use to reach you. If contact information is not first obtained by the scammer, then they will lay out a bait of some sort-- a fake employment ad, for example, that might cause you to contact the scammer first and provide personal identifiers.

2. A compelling story is presented. This is where the scammer gives the reason they need PII and/or money from you and it can come in the form of a letter, email, text message, or phone call.

3. The fake reason may be one of the following:

• You won the lottery held in another state or country
(even though you never entered that lottery)

• You are offered a well-paying, work-from-home job

• Your credit card or bank account is in danger of being closed or your access to it restricted

• A relative is in danger and needs money

• A person in a foreign country needs your help getting a great fortune transferred to the United States

4. The victim is fooled. The target of the scam is asked for personal information and/or money. This is where the trouble starts—you give them your personal identifiers, access to your credit card or bank account or accept a bad check presented to you by the scammer.

5. The scammer is rewarded. Now the scammer gets to work using information provided by the scam victim to steal money, open new credit accounts, or trick the victim into giving money to the perpetrator of the fraud.

For many adults, avoiding scams like these can seem like a matter of “common sense.” However, for the elderly – particularly those who live in relative isolation and/or who suffer from even a mild form of dementia or memory loss – these scams can appear very legitimate. They need their trusted advisors, particularly their adult-aged children, to educate them about self-protection.

 

Tips to Protect Your Elderly Parents Online

In many ways, seniors simply need to practice the same principles any of us need to adopt when surfing the Web, chatting online, or making purchases through the Internet.

One easy way to educate your elderly parents about “best practices” of navigating the Internet is to give them a printed copy of articles explaining how to stay safe online (such as this one, as well as our recent articles about Craigslist and avoiding tax fraud). Having a printed copy they can keep next to their computer gives them a chance to refer to it whenever they have a question.

Our partners at Kroll also offer the following tips:

1. Be cautious when using a search engine. The first links listed are paid advertisements and may not be the site you seek. In fact, such an ad may lead to a site that claims to be something that it is not.



2. Be wary of email messages that ask you to provide personal information for any reason. No legitimate business asks you to provide sensitive personal information by email. Scammers will try to trick you into reacting quickly to a message that appears to be urgent so that you give up personal information before really thinking about what you’re doing. Delete such messages without responding.

3. Do not give an unknown person access to your computer (as in access to check the computer for viruses or to fix a problem with it) unless you initiated the call, having contacted a service that you verified as legitimate.

a. Neither Microsoft nor Windows will call you and tell you that your computer has a virus. This is a method some scammers use to access/control/hold for ransom your computer

4. Call ‘the victim.’ If you receive a call or email from someone claiming to be a relative in trouble, call that relative or another person to check on them. This type of call—where you are told a child or grandchild is in trouble--is a common scam and the caller will threaten harm if you call anyone else. This is just a scare tactic. Do not continue conversations with the scammer-caller.

5. Do not believe urgent demands. Understand that if someone demands that payment be made by wire transfer or pre-paid debit cards, then it is likely a scam. Scammers ask for payment this way because it is virtually impossible to trace and they can get the cash quickly.

6. Do not pay any money toward a debt that is not yours.

7. Do not pay fees to receive a prize that you supposedly won.

8. Hang up on anyone that you believe is a scammer. Do not push any buttons on your phone or speak to the caller. Also refer to this article on how to protect yourself from phone scammers.

9. Don’t trust Caller ID. Scammers can mask their number.

10. Reduce unsolicited phone calls. Register your phone numbers on the Do Not Call Registry (www.donotcall.gov) to reduce calls from telemarketers. See if your phone service works with Nomorobo to block robocalls and telemarketers. (www.nomorobo.com)

The most important advice is simple: just begin the conversation.

You don’t have to know all of the answers, but you almost certainly know more than your elderly parents. Let them know you care about them, and you are only talking about this because you want to protect them (and not embarrass them). If you enter the conversation that way – by expressing love and a genuine sense of concern – you are almost certainly going to have a positive experience.

To learn more about how an IDShield membership can help you to protect yourself and your family, click here.

The face of the Internet is decidedly more wrinkled than many would assume.

The Pew Research Center determined 59 percent of seniors use the Internet. Shockingly, a new report by Limelight determined on average, Baby Boomers – who are now in their 50s and 60s – spend more time online than their 18-33 year old counterparts in the Millennial generation.

"As we age, we naturally want to stay connected to friends and loved ones more and the Internet provides the easy means to do that, especially when those friends and family are geographically dispersed,” said Jason Thibeault, Limelight’s senior director of marketing strategy and author of the report.

Seniors at Higher Risk of Fraud

In most ways, this trend is very positive for society. The Internet allows the elderly, particularly those who are homebound, to maintain connections with their friends and family, to keep up with the news, and to purchase products and services that they may not otherwise be able to access. In fact, the Gerontological Society of America recently conducted a longitudinal study that “found a positive contribution of Internet use to mental well-being of retired older adults in the United States, where Internet use reduced the probability of a depression state by one third.”

Simple Steps to Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft

March 17, 2017

Despite the fact that the U.S. Director of National Intelligence ranked cybercrime as the No. 1 national security threat, very few Americans take real steps to protect themselves, their family and their businesses against identity theft.

As the head of a company that helps consumers protect themselves from this issue, I've become increasingly aware of its perils, and how it impacts millions of people each year. I see identity theft as a growing epidemic that warrants immediate action. There are a number of simple steps to take, and some may seem obvious, but many people choose not to address the issue with preventive measures. How often do you back up personal and corporate computers, check your credit report and statements, or update your virus protection software?

When Consumers Get Smart, Scammers Get Smarter

March 16, 2017

So you think you’re pretty smart when it comes to scams. You know there is no wealthy Nigerian prince who needs money to escape – and there’s certainly no reward for sending him your hard-earned cash. You’re careful to not click on links or open attachments from email addresses you do not recognize. But as consumers become more aware, scammers become more savvy. They know we live online and on our phones, and they use both to get even the most wary individuals to fall for their scams. However, there are some steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim.

 

When it comes to phone scams, be smart with these tips:

Stay Calm and Trust No One: Protecting Yourself Against Scammers

March 16, 2017

Tax scams grab a lot of identity theft headlines, and for good reason: the Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises that 25 percent of reported scams in 2016 were related to tax issues. But there’s more than one way to scam a consumer, and scammers are constantly thinking up new and more sophisticated ways to lure in victims. According to the BBB, last year’s fastest growing scams included:

 

Online Purchase Scams

These may involve sites selling fake merchandise, as well as sites that aren’t selling anything at all. By the time your “designer” duds have arrived, or you realize you’ll never get what you paid for, the scammers have your money as well as your name, address and credit card information, which is what they are really after.

 

Employment Scams

Tax season ramps up W-2 phishing scams

February 10, 2017

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently issued an urgent alert regarding a dangerous W-2 phishing scam that is targeting employers across a wide variety of sectors, including everything from businesses to schools to tribal organizations. Not only is this type of fraud becoming widespread, there is a unique twist to this scheme, designed to further compound the potential injury. After fraudulently obtaining the W-2 information, scammers send an immediate follow-up requesting a wire transfer of funds. When a company falls victim to this scam, not only do their employees face the possibility of tax fraud from the stolen W-2 forms, but the company also loses funds from the fraudulent wire transfer. It is a double whammy, and according to the IRS, it has already affected hundreds of organizations.

The Underground Economy and Your Identity

January 18, 2017

The past several years have been a bonanza for the underground economy as it relates to the purchase and sale of stolen private information and, specifically, to the sheer number of individual consumer records impacted. Numerous large merchants, hospital systems, and insurance companies have been hacked, exposing email addresses and passwords, credit card numbers, and personal profiles. These breaches have resulted in a considerable surge in private personal information being made available for sale in the underground economy. Throughout this same timeframe, security companies, researchers, and hackers have commented on the vast amounts of data that have been stolen and are now available for purchase online. Indeed, we have heard all too often from the popular media that billions of personal records have been compromised.

How to Respond to Suspicious IRS-related Communication this Tax Season

January 18, 2017

It’s that time of year once again. The holidays have come and gone and we’re all settling into a new year. With all of our resolutions aside, one thing is still left to do - our taxes. This season is also the time where IRS-related scams are plentiful.  

It’s important to know that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by any type of electronic communication, including email, text messages, and social media channels. Here, we share some IRS direction for handling a suspicious IRS-related communication.

If you receive an email claiming to be from the IRS that contains a request for personal information:

  • Do not reply.
  • Do not open any attachments. Attachments may contain malicious code that will infect your computer.
  • Do not click on any links.
  • Forward the email as-is, to phishing@irs.gov. After you forward the email, delete the original email message you received.

Note: Please forward the full original email to   phishing@irs.gov. Do not forward scanned images of printed emails as that strips the email of valuable information only available in the electronic copy.