We can thank technology for plenty of things—keeping us connected, providing us with endless information, and making many things more accessible. However, it’s also responsible for a growing amount of crime through scams and fraud. Unfortunately, a big target for these professional scammers is senior citizens. Through this blog, you’ll become more aware of how these fraudulent schemes operate and learn some steps you can take to prevent yourself from falling victim.
Stealing & Selling Data
Like other goods, data is bought and sold in a marketplace. The currency of information circulates through a massive, underground economy consisting of hackers and coders who steal data and vendors who buy and resell it to end-users—the people trying to ensnare you in a scam. According to the cyber security firm Digital Shadows, over 15 billion pieces of personal data are circulating the marketplace, ready to go to the highest bidder.
The Evolution of Scamming
Before the internet, scammers would make dozens of calls daily, using the typical sales techniques of bonding quickly with the prospective “client” and creating a high-pressure situation.
The tactics stayed the same as technology evolved, but the opportunities expanded. Scammers have become more and more sophisticated with their fake pitches, and red flags have become harder to spot. For example, using social media, scammers can target vulnerable potential victims based on their age, location, or interests, serving up false information to people who are more likely to take the bait.
The Business of Protecting Data
Taking in all of this information can be a little overwhelming, but the good news is that plenty of people are on your side, and you are not fighting this alone. Credit card companies, for one, have numerous checks and balances in place. Anti-fraud detection systems use artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze hundreds of pieces of data for risk when a transaction occurs. These systems are seriously effective (Visa’s global fraud rate is at less than 0.1%), but if a bad transaction does happen to slip through the cracks, credit cards also have measures in place that allow these to be canceled and your money refunded.
Also, any reputable company—which is where you should limit your online shopping—will go to great lengths to protect their customers’ data. (A data breach is bad for business.) Using techniques such as firewalls, private networks, traffic monitoring and restriction, and properly training employees, companies are fighting hackers for you.
Of course, there are things that you can be doing too to stay further protected. Here are some general rules that you should follow:  
  1. Set up your digital accounts to require multi-factor authentication.
  2. Don’t save any credit card information on any sites. 
  3. Use facial or fingerprint recognition on your phone in case it is lost or stolen.
  4. Use antivirus software.
  5. Don’t keep your phone number stored on any online accounts. 
  6. Ignore phone calls from numbers you don’t know.
  7. Never make a quick decision regarding money—phrases like “act now” or “exclusive deal” can be signs of fraud.
  8. Always do some outside research before committing to any investment. 
  9. Never send cash through the mail for something you purchased online.
  10. A request for payment via gift card is often fraudulent.  
  11. Change passwords for online accounts frequently.
  12. Take alerts about potential breaches from online organizations seriously.
  13. Purge social media accounts of any information you wouldn’t want a hacker finding out. 
Prepare By Being Aware
Like many other situations, one of the best ways you can help yourself is to be aware of your surroundings. Knowing how hackers, scammers, and fraudsters operate can help you better recognize red flags in the online interactions we have each day. Recently, one of our residents was contacted by people posing as other independent living residents on Facebook. The conversations started normal and then turned to lottery winnings and payments from Bill Gates' Foundation. The residents who allegedly sent these communications were notified and indicated they did not contact anyone on Facebook. New scams pop up every day and can look convincing: especially when seemingly sent by a friend!
Take time to acquaint yourself with common or popular scams, take extra precautions when buying something or accessing accounts online, and if you’re ever in doubt, take a moment to think or ask someone before acting. In an effort to provide as much information and guidance to residents as possible, Holland Home has a variety of educational opportunities and one-on-one technology training appointments available on both our Raybrook and Breton Woods campuses!
Want to learn more about how to spot and stop scams? View
episode 14 of our At Home with Holland Home Webinar: Identifying and Avoiding Scams