Scammers and hackers are out there on the internet every day looking for unsuspecting, honest folks who are just trying to get through the day without a major disaster happening. These criminals prey on our worst fears—for many people, one such fear is being unjustly accused of a crime, or that a relative is in danger. For many older folks, though, one big fear is that their computer will stop working properly—a computer they don’t fully understand.
Unfortunately, older Americans seem to bear the brunt of these targeted scams. But, knowing what to watch out for can help prevent you (or an elderly loved one) from falling victim to one of these fraudulent attacks. Here are three examples of common scams that target senior citizens.
Computer Tech Repair
Gertrude is trying to buy a birthday present for her grandson online. A very nice gentlemen from someplace foreign calls to kindly let her know she has a terrible virus on her computer, but he will remove it for only $300, which she can conveniently pay via credit card.
At his instruction, she then goes to his website to download a computer program that will remove the virus. He asks Gertie to log into her online bank account to test whether the virus is gone. Poof. It’s magically gone!
Then, he asks her to wire money to him via Western Union since the virus removal was more difficult than originally thought, and he will need $2,000 more. She does exactly that, except the very nice gentleman says that the wire didn’t go through and she will need to try again. She tries again. Now, she’s out $4,300 and the foreign gentleman has control of her credit card, her banking credentials, and her computer.
Weldon is surfing the internet, looking for a place that sells his favorite chewing gum. Suddenly, his computer freezes on a screen that announces he is under investigation for illegal internet activity and will now go to prison for the rest of his life. The only way to keep the police from knocking down his door and dragging him away is to pay the Central Bureau of Internet Investigations $250 in Bitcoin. He has absolutely no idea what has happened or what Bitcoin is, but he follows the instructions and pays the $250. He just wants to make it all go away.
The scammers unlock his computer and tell him he will need to pay them another $250 every time his name appears in their investigations. Weldon ends up paying $250 every week—until he is completely broke.
For more information about ransomware, including what to do should your computer become infected, check out this blog article: “The Three Things You Need to Know About Ransomware.”
Grandchildren in Distress
Gramps & Grams get a frantic email from their 20 year old granddaughter, who seems to have gotten herself into quite a pickle down in Mexico. She has been caught with illegal drugs and booze and has been tossed into the local lockup. The child insists that it is all a frame-up, and she didn’t do anything wrong. Still, it would just worry her parents if they knew. Can Gramps and Grams please wire the local attorney $2,500 so she can get out of jail? Just don’t tell her parents—don’t tell anybody. Gramps is all for letting the little brat rot in jail, but Grams has a soft spot for her granddaughter, even if she might be a cocaine smuggler.
They wire the $2,500 to the attorney in Mexico. Ten minutes later, they decide to try calling their granddaughter’s cell phone. As it turns out, she’s been safe at college all along, not rotting in a Mexican jail.
These are just three of the many, many variations on internet scams aimed at the older generations. These scams are creepy, and if you are the target, one of the scariest things imaginable. If you are, or know, a victim of an elder financial exploitation scam, you can find out more information or report a scam on the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center website: http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx
About the Author:
Chris Watkins is the director of security at Central National Bank. He is quite the history buff, enjoys reading and collecting books, and can tell you just about anything you’d ever want to know regarding vintage airplanes (1910’s to 1940’s). He serves on the board of directors for the Greater Hewitt Chamber of Commerce and is the president of the Hewitt Kiwanis Club.