5 Online Scams Targeted at Older Adults

By Katherine Burke

Contrary to Gen X, Y and Z’s popular opinion, there are a lot of great things about aging – wisdom, a self-assuredness that young people lack, experience, better income, and a host of other attributes. However, as we grow older, we may also become more vulnerable to unsavory characters looking to take advantage of us.

Particularly because Boomers tend to be less internet-literate than younger generations, we also tend to be the target of many online scams. Here are the most common ones to watch for.

Romantic catfishing. We’ve all heard the stories – a lonely, older woman meets an enticing man online, usually younger. He sweeps her off her feet and offers her the romance and attention she craves. Until he asks her for money. Because she trusts him and he swears he loves her, she wires him money, again and again, for all sorts of “emergencies.” The average loss? On average, around $20,000.

Children in danger. Anyone’s worst fear is that something will happen to a loved one. Scammers target older people, and in particular, those whose children or grandchildren live far away. The scam works like this: You get a call from a person telling you that your loved one has been in an accident and there’s a problem with their health insurance so you need to wire a large sum of money immediately to save their life. It’s easy to see how people get caught up in the panic of it all and fall for this.

Account update requests. We’ve all got various online accounts, so receiving an email marked “URGENT” from one of them draws our attention. The email usually goes on to say that you need to update your account or verify some information in order to continue using your account. “All you need to do is provide private information, or worse, click on a link or download this nifty little attachment.” Stop! Never download attachments or click links that come in emails when you didn’t initiate contact. They almost certainly carry malware.

Bank emails. Lots of people fall for emails that are supposedly from their bank or credit card company, asking them to confirm their account details, PIN, or passwords. It’s a quick and easy way for scammers to get all they need to steal your money or your identity. Be forewarned: Banks will never send emails asking for private information.

Investment schemes. Some “well-meaning” emails offer an incredible opportunity to invest in a unique scheme and get rich…except get-rich-quick schemes are as old as time. We all know by now that they never work. Let’s say they’re easy enough to avoid online because it looks sketchy. The problem is that these schemes will sometimes be pitched to you in person, by people who seem trustworthy. Be wary of people trying to get you to essentially gamble away your retirement or life savings.

The bottom line is that not all is as it seems, so caution needs to be exercised at all times. As we grow older, cruel people tend to see us as easy targets and devise clever ways to convince us to part with our money. Be careful online and don’t fall for these common schemes!

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