October is Cyber Security Awareness Month. Anyone can be scammed, even me. Out of all age demographics, the Senior population Is victimized the most by cybersecurity financial scams. It is truly sad that hackers and con artists will prey upon our beloved older adult population. There are a million and one ways to defraud someone but in this blog, I will focus on phone call (telemarketing) scams, internet fraud, and email/phishing scams. These are the most common scams that I have witnessed and helped my older clients with.
You would be surprised to know the number of older adults who are scammed daily; yet, who do not report the crimes. Why? Older Americans are less likely to report a fraud because they don’t know who to report it to, are too ashamed at having been scammed, or don’t know they have been scammed. Elderly victims may not report crimes, for example, because they are concerned that relatives may think the victims no longer have the mental capacity to take care of their own financial affairs and lose their financial independence. Most older adults are capable of living their lives unassisted and free of living in nursing homes in comparison to the generations prior. It can be a blow to the ego when one is scammed. Imagine having to tell your adult child that you lost $10,000 of your life's savings?
Senior citizens are most likely to have a “nest egg,” to own their home, and/or to have excellent credit—all of which make them attractive to con artists and scammers. If you are age 60 or older—and especially if you are an older woman living alone—you may be a special target of people who sell bogus products and services by telephone. Telemarketing scams often involve offers of free prizes, low-cost vitamins, and health care products, and inexpensive vacations.
My advice to my older adult clients is to NEVER give out personal or financial information over the phone. Especially, to strangers. Winning a prize does not require having to pull out your credit card or bank account information and pay a stranger over the phone. Immediately hang up when they start trying to bait you into giving such information. I have even heard stories of how these con artists angrily yell through the phone at older adults demanding credit card information 'or else'. Do not allow ANYONE to talk to you like that. I again instruct one and all to immediately hang up the phone.
Tech Support Scams are HUGE and happen in three ways,
You may receive a pop-up window on your PC or MAC stating that your machine has a virus and that you need to call the number provided on the screen immediately.
You may receive a phone call from a toll-free or local number stating that they received a notification that your computer has a virus and that they need your device IP address immediately in order to help.
You may receive an email stating that your bank or another account information has been compromised and you must reset your password or call a number.
FAKE POP-UP WINDOW THREAT SCAM
The picture above is an example of a pop-up window alert that any Windows, Chrome or Mac device can get. A pop-up window will quickly get the attention of any user. Scammers who plant these pop-up windows on sites count on users to take action immediately by calling the number shown on the screen. The sad part about these pop-up links is that hackers no longer plant these links on social media or unscrupulous sites. They plant them everywhere. From banking sites to golfing sites. I once had an SVP call me into his office for help with his computer. He was on a Golf Association website trying to pay his membership dues when he received a similar pop-up window. In the event that you should receive such a pop-up window immediately shut your device down. If you are unable to shut it down from the settings either hold down the power button until the device shuts down, remove the battery (if it is a laptop with a removable battery), or unplug the computer from its power source immediately if it is a desktop. Do NOT call the number on the screen. I repeat, DO NOT CALL THE NUMBER ON THE SCREEN. It is a scam and if you do call the fake tech support reps will do the following things,
Ask you for your device IP address. Do not worry if you do not know what an 'IP Address" is or how to obtain it. The scammer will calmly walk you step by step over the phone on how to obtain it. The IP address allows them remote access into your computer.
Once they have the IP address the fake tech support rep will do fancy things like move the mouse around (Oooooh!), open up notepad (Ahhhh!), type some gibberish (FAAANNNCCCYYY) and then for added special effects they will say, "Oh, look! You have virus on your computer!" This is where they then tell you there is a fee to remove the threat OR They can do what the worst of the worst scammers do and hijack your device. They will take possession of your device and threaten to take your important documents and financial records. (The City of Atlanta and even Charlotte have been victims of ransomware hijacking attacks. Yes, Atlanta and Charlotte. It took the City of Atlanta nearly a year to recover from this hit and they lost millions of dollars in the process because county records were inaccessible during this time.)
Once they have scared you into believing that your device has a virus they will then need you to pay a 'small' fee for virus removal. Because credit card company's and banks are reversing these bogus transactions after they are reported the scammers are now instructing its victims to go to their local Walmart or other retail store to purchase gift cards in order to pay them. This is a RED FLAG!
In an online article entitled "Age of fraud: Are seniors more vulnerable to financial scams?" the interviewer talks to Judy, a 79-year-old Senior and victim of tech support fraud. Judy was defrauded out of nearly $200,000. Yes, $200,000.
Judy’s nightmare began with a phone call from someone claiming to be from computer tech support who said he needed to get into her computer to fix something. It spiraled from there.
According to Judy, the scammer who took control of her computer-directed her attention to what looked like a readout from one of her accounts at US Bank. The account should have had $29,819. She freaked out when it appeared the account had been drained to nothing. Judy was led to believe if she gave the caller even more money, she would get all of it back. She said the scammer ordered her to not just Walmart but also Target, resulting in more than two dozen trips over two weeks to buy gift cards and to turn the value of the cards over to him by phone.
Department store gift cards are a favorite money transfer device of scammers. Once they are purchased and used there are absolutely NO refunds. I am thankful for department stores training their staff to be on the lookout for anyone especially older adults who visit the store buying gift cards in bulk or who keep returning to purchase gift cards frequently. I have three past clients who because of alert staff at Walmart and CVS were able to be talked out of buying gift cards and were instructed to call the police instead.
I urge one and all to NEVER fold to the demands of a stranger on the other end of a phone call. If they direct you to provide your credit card or banking information please hang up immediately. If they direct you to purchase gift cards in order to pay, DO NOT DO IT! These are all RED FLAGS. Do not hesitate to contact your local FBI or police department immediately.
EMAIL, PHISHING & SOCIAL MEDIA MESSAGING SCAM
I am sure that we are all aware of the "Rich Prince or Relative from Kenya" email scams. When I have nothing more to do with my time I like to go back and forth with these anonymous scammers in order to waste their time. Just last week on Twitter a fake millionaire account messaged me wanting to 'help me' by giving me $3000 but FIRST I had to send her a picture, front and back, of my credit card information. Ha!! Instead of sending that information I sent bible verses and articles about FBI putting cyber criminals in jail. Can you believe that the scammer blocked me? GASP! The nerve!
'Phishing' is when you receive emails, texts, or calls that seem to be from companies or people you know. In actuality they are from no good scammers. They are counting on you to take action by clicking on links in the email and providing personal information. Let's look at an email of how a phishing email may appear.
When receiving emails of this nature the very first thing that you should check is the sender's actual email address and the reply address. The example email above states that it was sent from Apple. However, upon looking closer at the email address you will notice that it states "email@example.com". First of all, Apple would NEVER send an email from a domain address other than '@Apple.com'. That is the first red flag. If you cannot tell who the sender is you can hit 'Reply' and it will show in 'TO:' field. If you are still uncertain it is best to contact the sender/business directly using the contact information that is public information and not from the email or you can delete and ignore the email.
I will also add,
DO NOT click on any of the links within a suspicious email.
DO NOT forward the email to anyone else.
If you have questions about the email and want to ask someone their thoughts DO take a screenshot or picture of the email instead of forwarding it.
DO NOT send any stranger or Kenyan Prince in Africa money via Western Union or any other source.
To my Mature Older Adults, if you have been a victim of any type of fraud or scam please do not feel that you are 'stupid'. You are not stupid. You are human and we all make mistakes. If you are someone you know has been a victim of a cyber crime please contact your local police department of branch of FBI. WS Police Department non emergency number 336-773-7700. If you feel that your device have been compromised and would like a virus scan completed, Contact Geek In Heels for assistance at 336-794-6762.
It's also been a long time since Geek In Heels has held a Cyber Security Class for Seniors. I'll have one coming your way soon so be on the lookout for emails with class dates and locations. Well, that's it. That's all that I have for now. If you should have any questions, would like to schedule a repair or would generally like to tell me how amazing I am feel free to contact me at any time.