When you can’t see your family or friends face-to-face, do the next best thing – take out your smartphone and start a video chat.

Technology has been an essential tool for keeping up in touch with people. In fact, 4 out of 5 adults over the age of 50 rely on email, texting, video chat, smartphones and other tech to communicate with people, according to AARP. This rise in tech use has made cybercriminals increase their efforts to steal from older adults.i

According to the FBI 2020 Internet Crime Report, more than $1.8 billion was reported lost by people ages 50-plus, a 27 percent increase from the previous year.ii

Older adults need to remain vigilant when using their email, texting or surfing the web as there are many ways cybercriminals try to steal people’s money or personal information. In this blog, we’ll go over some of the common cyber scams used against older adults and offer some tips on how to avoid them.

Phishing Emails

Although it’s spelled differently, cybercriminals are going “fishing.” Phishing attacks are when criminals send fraudulent emails or communications that look like they’re coming from a reliable source. The goal is for the victim to reveal sensitive personal data, such as credit card numbers, account login information or give access to the victims’ computer to install malware or other viruses on the victim’s computer. Usually, these emails want you to click a link or open an attachment, and that’s how the scammer gains access to your computer.iii

How to Spot a Phishing Email

Always Be Suspicious: A lot of phishing emails try to scare you or get you super excited, such as a payment never being received, your computer has a virus, or you just won a big prize. Usually, these emails encourage you to click a link to go to another web page or log in or open an attachment.

When in doubt, don’t click the link or open the attachment.

Lousy Grammar or Spelling: Another way to tell if it’s a bogus email from outside the U.S. is if the message is full of bad grammar or spelling errors. Legitimate companies hire professionals to proofread their messages.

If you see an email promising you “Many millions fo Curency,” then it’s probably bad news.

Check the Sender and the Email Address: Whenever you get a new email, it’s always a good idea to check the name and email address to see if it’s legit. Sometimes, you may receive a message from the name of someone you know or a business you regularly receive emails from. One example is receiving an email from a family member; however, the email address is a jumbled mess, such as J2dfiotafpoi@email.com. If you notice something is wrong – don’t open the email, don’t reply or click on any links or attachments.

Fraudulent Text Links

Just like emails, you can receive fraudulent text messages on your smartphone. These spam, phishing texts are sent from scammers trying to get you to reveal personal information. These texts usually come from numbers you don’t recognize and come in various forms, some more elaborate, posing as a bank or company trying to get you to verify your information, while others are just a link.iv

What to Do If You Get a Fraudulent Text?

Don’t Reply to the Text: If you’re not sure if the text is legitimate, don’t reply. Sending a response like “Who is this?” or “STOP” will only alert the scammer that this is an active line, and more spam texts may come your way.

Don’t Click on a Link: Just like with phishing emails, if you see a suspicious text with a link you’re unsure about, then don’t click the link.

When In Doubt, Call the Company: If you get a text claiming to be your bank or a store you shop at, you can always call the establishment directly and confirm if it’s legit.

Tech Support Scams

Arguably one of the more notorious cybersecurity crimes, tech support scammers want you to think your computer has a virus, malware or is hacked. Their goal is to trick you into paying for a problem that doesn’t exist. These scammers will usually call, text or email you or use pop-up windows to tell you your computer is infected with a virus.

Once you call the number, the scammer will ask you to download a program to allow them access to your computer and they’ll block access to your computer in exchange for money or gift cards.

How to Avoid a Tech Support Scam

Consider the Source: Legitimate tech or antivirus software companies won’t contact you by phone, text or email to tell you your computer has a virus.

Run a Virus Scan: If you think there may be a virus on your computer, run a diagnostic scan using your computer’s antivirus software.v

Romance Scams

It’s safe to say scammers have no shame, and this tactic proves it. Romance scams are when cybercriminals pose as potential suitors on social media or dating sites to people aged 60 and older looking for companionship. Once the scammer and the possible victim match, the scammer builds a fake relationship. Over time, an “emergency” occurs where the scammer asks for money, gift cards or a wire transfer. Once the victim sends the money, they sever contact. According to Federal Trade Commission, romance scams cost victims nearly $84 million in financial losses in 2019.vi

How to Avoid a Romance Scam

Inspect Their Photos: Scammers will often take other people’s photos online to create these fake profiles. Check to see if the person is the same in each image if there is more than one image on the profile. If they don’t match or something seems off, then trust your gut.vii

Do an Image Search: Another way to verify the profile images is to use Google’s “search by image” feature to see where the photos can be found online. If the same image is attached to two different people, then raise the red flag.

Take It Slowly: If your potential suitor seems head over heels in love with you or overly flirty from the get-go, then proceed with caution. Ask lots of questions and examine their answers. The scammer may reveal themselves by not keeping their story straight.

Health Care Fraud

As you get older and health insurance becomes a premium, be mindful as scammers will target those with Medicare and Medicaid to commit health care fraud. There are several ways scammers target unsuspecting victims:

Medical Identity Theft: Scammers call victims claiming to be the government issuing new health care ID cards and need you to verify your Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security numbers.

Medical Alert Scams: These programs offer “free” medical alert systems via automated photo calls. The scammer will say these programs were “ordered by your doctor or family member.” The scammer will ask for credit card or bank account information.viii

Counterfeit Prescription Drugs: Scammers pose as online retailers offering cheaper prescription drugs. Besides running the risk of getting your credit card or bank account compromised, you may be sent medicine that can be dangerous or doesn’t work.

How to Avoid Health Care Fraud

Protect Your Personal Info: Treat your Medicare, Medicaid or Health Insurance info like gold. Please don’t give it to anyone you don’t trust and always be cautious when sharing it at the doctor’s office or pharmacy.

Beware of “Free” Services: If it’s “free,” it may be too good to be true. Check with your Insurance Company to see if this free service is legitimate.ix

How to Report a Cybersecurity

If you think you’ve been the victim of a cybersecurity crime, Contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation. With this link, you’ll be taken to the FBI’s Elder Fraud web page, or you can contact the Federal Trade Commission’s Fraud Report Website.

How Ensurem Protects Your Data

With the ever-growing threat of cybercriminals targeting older Americans, online security is an essential cornerstone of any business online.

That is why at Ensurem, we go above and beyond to keep your personal information safe as you shop and compare Medicare insurance plans online.

Ensurem will only contact you for a Medicare consultation if you express an interest in learning more about your options by calling our phone number or by filling out a form online.

Whether we call you, or you call us, when you speak with Ensurem, your conversation will be held on a secure phone line and any personal information, such as credit card numbers and social security numbers, will not be saved on our servers. That information will go directly to the carrier you enrolled with during the call.

Ensurem also strives to meet all compliance regulations per the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

If you’re ready to learn more about your Medicare options, speak to a licensed insurance agent by calling the number on this page.

Calling the number on your screen will connect you with a Licensed Insurance Agent.

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i “Tech Usage Among Older Adults Skyrockets During Pandemic,” AARP, April 21, 2021, https://press.aarp.org/2021-4-21-Tech-Usage-Among-Older-Adults-Skyrockets-During-Pandemic

ii “Internet Crime Report,” Page 16, Federal Bureau of Investigation, https://www.ic3.gov/Media/PDF/AnnualReport/2020_IC3Report.pdf

iii “What is Phishing?,” CISCO, https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/products/security/email-security/what-is-phishing.html

iv “How to stop spam texts: 8 do’s and don’ts,” Kyle Chivers, Norton, https://us.norton.com/internetsecurity-how-to-deal-with-spam-text-messages.html

v “How To Spot, Avoid, and Report Tech Support Scams, Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information, https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-spot-avoid-and-report-tech-support-scams

vi “Protecting Older Consumers Report,” Page 7, Federal Trade Commission, Oct. 18, 2020, https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/reports/protecting-older-consumers-2019-2020-report-federal-trade-commission/p144400_protecting_older_adults_report_2020.pdf

vii “Romance Scams,” AARP, https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2019/romance.html

viii “How to Avoid Health Fraud,” North Dakota State University, https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/aging/posts/how-to-avoid-health-fraud

ix Health Care Fraud, Federal Bureau of Investigation, https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes/health-care-fraud