Sur­vey: Two-thirds of se­niors have been scammed on­line

Record Observer - - Senior Satelite -

EAS­TON — Fi­nan­cial and on­line fraud against aging adults are now con­sid­ered the “crimes of the cen­tury” by the Na­tional Coun­cil on Aging. Scam­mers of­ten tar­get se­niors be­cause of per­ceived ac­cu­mu­lated wealth, and feel that se­niors are less likely to re­port crimes due to fear of em­bar­rass­ment.

In fact, a new sur­vey by Home In­stead Inc., fran­chisor of the Home In­stead Se­nior Care net­work of fran­chised busi­nesses that pro­vide in-home care ser­vices to se­niors, found that two-thirds (67 per­cent) of U.S. se­niors have been the vic­tim or tar­get of at least one com­mon on­line scam or hack. In ad­di­tion, more than a third (38 per­cent) re­port that some­one has tried to scam them on­line, and 28 per­cent of sur­veyed se­niors have mis­tak­enly down­loaded a com­puter virus.

Michael Kaiser, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Na­tional Cy­ber Se­cu­rity Al­liance, said en­cour­ag­ing se­niors to pro­tect them­selves on­line can go a long way in pro­tect­ing sen­si­tive iden­tity and fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion.

“Cy­ber­se­cu­rity is about risk re­duc­tion. It’s dif­fi­cult to achieve per­fect se­cu­rity. But you can help older adults work to make them­selves a more dif­fi­cult tar­get,” Kaiser said.

To help se­niors un­der­stand their risks on­line and take steps to pro­tect them­selves, the Home In­stead Se­nior Care net­work col­lab­o­rated with the Na­tional Cy­ber Se­cu­rity Al­liance to launch a new pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram, Pro­tect Se­niors On­line, avail­able at www.Pro­tec­tSe­niorsOn­line.com. The new pro­gram of­fers free re­sources and tips to help se­niors un­der­stand how scam­mers op­er­ate, fa­mil­iar­ize them­selves with the most com­mon se­nior scams and pro­vides proac­tive steps se­niors and care­givers can take to pro­tect sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion. The re­sources in­clude the on­line “Can You Spot an On­line Scam?” quiz to test se­niors’ cy­ber se­cu­rity knowl­edge.

“For se­niors, this is a time in their lives when they should be able to trust that their life’s earn­ings are pro­tected,” said Jen­nifer Marchi, owner of the Home In­stead Se­nior Care of­fice serv­ing Queen Anne’s, Tal­bot, Dorch­ester, Kent and Caro­line coun­ties. “Un­for­tu­nately, we know there are peo­ple who vi­o­late this trust. That’s why we are com­mit­ted to help­ing se­niors un­der­stand the ways they are at risk on­line and how to pro­tect their in­for­ma­tion to re­duce their chances of be­ing scammed.”

Re­search shows that more and more se­niors are go­ing on­line – and putting them­selves at risk. Ac­cord­ing to Home In­stead’s sur­vey, 97 per­cent of aging adults use the in­ter­net at least once a week. They most com­monly use the in­ter­net for email, with 94 per­cent of se­niors do­ing so weekly. Se­niors also use the in­ter­net to man­age fi­nances, with 41 per­cent bank­ing on­line and over a quar­ter (26 per­cent) pay­ing bills on­line. Se­niors are also ac­tive on so­cial me­dia, with 51 per­cent us­ing Face­book or Twit­ter at least once a week. All that time on­line – cou­pled with what scam­mers view as per­ceived fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity and a trust­ing na­ture – can make se­niors a pri­mary tar­get for scam­mers.

Se­niors are en­cour­aged to take the fol­low­ing pre­cau­tions, com­piled from the Na­tional Cy­ber Se­cu­rity Al­liance, Stop Think and Con­nect and the Home In­stead Se­nior Care net­work, to pro­tect them­selves on­line:

1. Cre­ate pass­words and make them strong. Lock all in­ter­net-en­abled de­vices, in­clud­ing com­put­ers, tablets and smart­phones, with se­cure pass­words – at least 12 char­ac­ters long and a mix of letters, num­bers and sym­bols.

2. Se­cure ac­cess to ac­counts, with two-step ver­i­fi­ca­tion. Many on­line ser­vices, in­clud­ing apps and web­sites, of­fer free op­tions to help pro­tect per­sonal in­for­ma­tion. Learn more at Lock­DownYour Lo­gin.com.

3. Think be­fore you act. Emails or mes­sages that cre­ate a sense of ur­gency – like a prob­lem with a bank ac­count or taxes – are likely a scam. Reach out to com­pa­nies by phone to de­ter­mine if emails are le­git­i­mate.

4. When in doubt, throw it out. If an email looks un­usual, delete it. Click­ing on links in email is of­ten how scam­mers ac­cess per­sonal in­for­ma­tion. Turn on spam fil­ters to fil­ter sus­pi­cious mes­sages.

5. Share with care. Be aware of what you share pub­licly on so­cial me­dia and ad­just pri­vacy set­tings to limit who can see your in­for­ma­tion.

6. Use se­cu­rity soft­ware, in­clud­ing up­dated an­tivirus and anti-spy­ware soft­ware.

7. Ad­just browser safety set­tings for op­ti­mum se­cu­rity.

8. Use your com­puter’s de­fault fire­wall se­cu­rity pro­tec­tion on your com­puter.

9. Log out. Log out of apps and web­sites when you’re fin­ished us­ing them. Leav­ing them open on your com­puter or smart­phone could make you vul­ner­a­ble to se­cu­rity and pri­vacy risks.

10. Con­sider sup­port. Se­niors who live alone or spend a lot of time by them­selves may want to con­sider a trusted source, such as adult fam­ily mem­bers, com­puter-savvy grand­chil­dren, or pro­fes­sional care­givers, to serve as a sec­ond set of eyes and ears when con­duct­ing ac­tiv­i­ties on­line.

“Our hope is that by high­light­ing the ways scam­mers can gather sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion, and pro­vid­ing se­niors with cy­ber-se­cu­rity strate­gies they can im­ple­ment them­selves, we can help en­sure their per­sonal in­for­ma­tion, fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity and in­de­pen­dence stay pro­tected,” said Marchi.

Se­niors can test their cy­ber-se­cu­rity skills at “Can You Spot an On­line Scam?” and view other pro­gram re­sources and tips at Pro­tec­tSe­niorsOn line.com.

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