Caloosa Belle

Increased interest in the internet may lead to fraudulent schemes

When you think of the Internet, you probably think of young, tech-savvy individuals characterized as entry-level entrepreneurs, researchers, teenage hackers, bloggers, social networking site users and online gamers. The truth is, however, many members of our elderly generation are becoming more active and participatory in modern day technology.

In the past, our older generation has perceived computer-based technology as overly complicated with the Internet being difficult to access. However, with the widespread availability of resources and its user-friendly accessibility, this generation is now using the Internet quite frequently. One major concern is that many of the elderly become prime targets of fraudulent schemes. Due to limited knowledge and lack of resources, they may have no methods of self-defense when it comes to cyber security.

According to John Benkert, Chief Executive Officer of CPR Tools, “Florida is the number one state in the US for cyber crime due in part because of our large senior population. My father’s generation is all about being nice to people and answering questions, just generally trying to help and the bad guys use that against them.”

One of the most common fraudulent schemes the elderly face is called “phishing”. What is phishing you may ask? Also known as email scams, a phishing scam is when an Internet con artist sends emails to unsuspecting victims, aiming to trick them into parting with their money or installing viruses on their computer that can be used to steal private data, such as bank details.

Some of the most popular types of phishing scams include the grandparent scam, fake online pharmacies, romance scam, investment scam and 419 scam.

The grandparent scam sends an email from a grandchild’s hacked email account. The ‘grandchild’ informs the victim that they are stranded abroad and needs money put into a bank account to get them home. When the victim replies and follows the ‘grandchild’s’ directions, their money is wired to a scam bank account and the cyber thieves cash in. Never reply. If in doubt, contact the grandchild by phone to see of the story adds up.

The fake online pharmacy scam advertises miracle cures or low cost medication. Rather than receiving actual FDA approved meds, the victim gets sugar pills. Make sure the pharmacist is GPC-registered if purchasing medications online.

The romance scam preys on the loneliness and vulnerability of the elderly. Cyber criminals will send a phishing email looking for love. They will ask for money, bank account details and then quickly disappear. If the ‘relationship’ is moving suspiciously fast, individuals should question its validity.

The investment scam sends a message promising guaranteed returns on a risk-free investment. Sadly, the elderly are often trusting and will invest their entire pension. In the end they lose everything. Remember the saying: “If it sounds too good to be true…”

The 419 scams typically involve promising the victim a significant share of a large sum of money, in return for a small up-front payment, which the fraudster requires in order to obtain the large sum. If a victim makes the payment, the fraudster either invents a series of further fees for the victim, or simply disappears. Tips to avoid falling victim to these fraudulent emails include them often being poorly written and they will usually suggest the use of Western Union or MoneyGram to transfer funds as these are untraceable.

The best way for the elderly to avoid becoming victims of an Internet crime and stay safe online is to be protected. It is imperative that this unsuspecting generation has market-leading anti-virus software, complete with anti-phishing protection and an anti-spam filter, installed right away.