Cybercrime cost American seniors $3 billion last year, a 62% jump


Children, it’s time to “have the talk” with your parents and grandparents.

According to the FBI’s 2021 Elder Fraud Report, cybercrime cost Americans over 50 nearly $3 billion last year, a whopping 62% increase from 2020.

In fact, the number of victims could be much higher because seniors are also less likely to report fraud, the FBI says. This is backed up by figures from the FTC which show that 44% of younger people in their 20s reported losing money to fraud, but only 20% of people in their 70s did the same.

The risks are wide-ranging, from fraudulent phone calls to phishing attempts via email, text messages to social media messages or shopping scams designed to trick seniors out of their savings.

Increase in attacks, plus seniors pay more

Again, the pandemic played a role, believes Michael Jabbara, Visa’s vice president and global head of fraud services.

“It’s no surprise that over the years we’ve seen a massive shift towards digital transactions, but with that shift there’s also an increasing focus from scammers,” says Jabbara. “This is especially true for older individuals, who can be a target because of a lack of technical sophistication and because they don’t always report these crimes to authorities.”

Jabbara says “grandparent cheating” is still a popular attack vector.

“This is where a scammer spoofs a relative’s phone number and sends a message asking for money because of a medical emergency or textbooks or whatever the case,” he said

According to Jabbara, Visa has invested more than $9 billion in anti-fraud measures over the past five years, including the use of artificial intelligence and advanced data analytics “to ensure we keep our network safe and secure around the world.”

“Scammers are able to learn the personal information that grandparents posted on Facebook or Instagram and create a very credible message,” Jabbara said. “Or in other cases, if a family member’s account is hacked and a scammer gains access to their email, they will attack an older family member with a similar request for money or help. They play with their emotions.”

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Seniors are a lucrative target

Seniors also pay more. Disturbing data released by cybersecurity firm Comparitech shows that the average loss has increased from $324 for victims in their 60s to $426, for those over 70 to $635 and for those over 80- year-olds to a staggering median loss of $1,300.

Daniel Markuson, digital privacy expert at NordVPN, a leading virtual private network (VPN) provider, see below, says his latest survey found that 84% of Americans have experienced some form of “social engineering” involving scammers attempt to induce you to disclose confidential or personal information.

“Phishing scams are one of the most common tactics used by cybercriminals to trick people into clicking links that download malicious files, often containing a virus,” explains Markuson. “So one of our top tips for seniors is to be cautious and question anything they receive from unknown senders.”

Markus says there are often grammatical errors in the emails you’ve received, a sense of urgency to confirm your details, or an odd-looking email domain.

What should we do about senior citizen fraud?

When it comes to protecting our loved ones, educating them about these risks plays a big part.

According to Jabbara, one of the best ways to fight back is to do a “tech check-in” with older relatives to go over these different tips.

Share carefully: Limit how much personal information you share online. Make your social media profiles private. If someone asks to connect with you on social media, only accept their request if you know them.

Caution in “emergencies”: Your family or friends can easily be hacked to send emails or text messages claiming urgent need for cash or gift cards and cheating you out of money or gift cards.

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If in doubt, just ask: If you really think it could be your daughter or grandson, don’t confirm it by replying to the message you received. Instead, reach out to them in other ways, e.g. B. by calling them. Chances are, it’s a fake. Block and report the fraudulent message.

Lock your devices: Use a passcode or fingerprint to lock your phone or tablet. If you have a computer, use a strong password that is at least 12 characters long.

Safer shopping: Always use a secure internet connection when purchasing. Reputable websites use technologies like SSL (Secure Socket Layer) that encrypt data in transit. In your browser you will see a small padlock icon (and usually “https” in the front of your address bar to confirm that the connection is secure. Only shop on websites that accept secure payment methods such as credit cards.

Enable multifactor authentication: When it comes to logging into your online accounts, add a second layer of defense by enabling multi-factor authentication, sometimes referred to as “two-factor authentication.” This means that you not only need a password or passcode (or a biometric login, such as a fingerprint or face scan) to confirm your identity, but also a one-time code that you receive on your mobile phone to enter.

Install good cybersecurity software: Just as you wouldn’t leave the front door of your home unlocked, you shouldn’t leave your tech vulnerable to attack, whether it be a virus or other malicious software known as “malware” sneaking onto or caused by your device tricked into disclosing confidential information.

Make sure you have the right cybersecurity tools to prevent fraud

Good anti-malware, updated frequently, can detect, quarantine, delete and report suspicious activity coming into your computer, or flag sensitive information that goes out.

“Seniors have better things to worry about than staying safe online,” said Gagan Singh, executive vice president and chief product and revenue officer at cybersecurity firm McAfee.

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A just-announced tool called McAfee+, starting at $49.99/year one, then $139.99/year thereafter, was created to make it easy for anyone to live confidently online, no matter how much or little they know about technology and Online threats, including identity theft, know .

“Our new suite of products includes tools to help people prevent identity theft and credit fraud, including credit monitoring, credit freeze, online removal of their personal information, identity monitoring and website safety alerts,” says Singh.

Avoid WiFi hotspots

Resist free wireless internet in a coffee shop or at an airport, for example. It’s best to wait until you have a secure internet connection at home, or use your smartphone as a personal hotspot, which is more secure than public WiFi. If you must use a hotspot, never conduct any financial transaction — like online banking, trading, or shopping — because you never know if your information is being tracked and logged.

Use a VPN

A VPN hides your online identity using encryption technology, so your service provider, government, search engine, browser company, social media sites, advertisers and malicious types cannot see what you are doing and where you are going online.

“VPN is an easy-to-use tool that allows users to ensure their network is secure at all times,” confirms Markuson. “For seniors who sometimes find it difficult to keep up with the latest technology and cybersecurity trends, it is a perfect solution [as] Not only does VPN help stay secure when using public WiFi, it also ensures that users’ private data is protected from snooping.”

NordVPN starts at $3.69/month with a two-year subscription that includes three months free.

Follow Marc on Twitter for his Tech Tip of the Day posts: @marc_saltzman. Email him or subscribe to his Tech It Out podcast. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

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