Here's how to prevent older consumers from losing billions of dollars to scams

Older Americans are increasingly targets of scams. An expert offers ways to stay safe - Photo by UnSplash +

Consumers over 60 lost billions to scams in 2023

As technology continues to advance and hackers get sharper, consumers are at a greater risk of falling victim to scams than ever before. 

Recently, the FBI released a report on elder fraud, showing that in 2023, consumers over the age of 60 lost nearly $3.5 billion to scams – an 11% increase from the year before. 

In an effort to ensure that older consumers are safe and protected, Jon Clay, vice president of Threat Intelligence at Trend Micro, shared the most popular elder scams, the warning signs to look out for and how older consumers can protect themselves. 

What are the most common scams?

According to Clay, the five most common elder scams to look out for include: 

  • Tech support scams

  • Non-payment/non-delivery scams

  • Romance scams

  • Lottery/sweepstakes/inheritance scams

  • Business email compromise scams

These scams follow a similar pattern of phone calls, emails, or texts asking consumers to click on phony links that lead them to fake websites that then ask for personal information, to send money through a website, or credit card information. 

How to spot a scam

For older consumers, or anyone with older loved ones or relatives in their lives, there are some key tips for when you’ve encountered one of these scams. Clay suggests the following are typical red flags that things aren’t exactly what they seem: 

  • Someone you don't know contacts you unexpectedly via email or phone calls.

  • You are requested to make a money transfer immediately as if it were an emergency.

  • The message entices you with too-good-to-be-true offers like big prizes, promotions, and deals.

  • The sender asks you to provide personal information such as passwords or PINs.

  • The sender claims to be from a government organization or company.

Education matters

When it comes to keeping older consumers safe from scams, Clay suggests that having conversations about what these scams look like and the potential risks are key. 

“To safeguard older relatives from scams, it’s important to educate them about the common scam tactics they can come across, be skeptical of unsolicited contacts and messages, and utilize technology like call blockers and security software,” he explained.

“Relatives should also help them regularly monitor their financial accounts for suspicious activities and consider legal measures such as setting up a power of attorney. Additionally, they should encourage their relatives to report scam attempts to authorities like the FTC and maintain frequent communication to reduce their isolation and vulnerability. These combined efforts can significantly enhance their protection against scams.”

Staying safe amidst rising elder scams

While elder scams likely aren’t going anywhere, there are ways for consumers to maintain that their personal information stays safe. According to Clay, these are the eight ways to stay safe amidst rising scams: 

  1. If you’re suspicious of a scam, calm down and never act too quickly.

  2. Free gifts and prizes are always a major red flag.

  3. Double-check people’s contact details and website URLs.

  4. Reach out to official websites and support pages directly for help if in doubt.

  5. Use strong passwords and enable two-factor authentication (2FA) to protect your online accounts.

  6. If you’ve encountered a scam, file a report with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center to help others.

  7. NEVER click on links or buttons from unknown sources.

  8. Install a security app on your device for added protection.

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