3 tips to help the seniors in your life avoid tech scams

3 tips to help the seniors in your life avoid tech scams


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SALT LAKE CITY — Scams that target the elderly are on the rise.

The United States Department of Justice recently announced the largest nationwide sweep of elder fraud cases in history, and the alleged losses amassed to millions more than the year before at over three-fourths of $1 billion.

Those scams are also becoming increasingly more digital. So what can you do to protect yourself or the seniors in your life?

Liz Weiman — founder of iWorkshop Academy, an organization that helps Apple users get more out of their devices — has three tips to protect seniors from scams that are becoming all too common.

Tip 1: Always wait before doing anything

Scammers often use a method called "phishing," a popular fraud that uses fake emails, texts or copycat websites to convince victims to share valuable personal information. Criminals may often pretend to be a well-known organization in order to gain the victim's trust.

“No matter how urgent or alarming a situation may seem, tell your senior to always wait before doing anything and call a family member or designated person first," Weiman said. “Remind them that the IRS, Apple, Microsoft do not routinely contact people by phone or email.”

Anyone who gets a call demanding money or even a random, strongly-worded notice can experience anxiety and panic, and elderly people are exceptionally vulnerable to being browbeaten, yelled at or bullied on the phone, according to Weiman. Scammers want victims to act fast without contacting anyone else.

“As with any major decision in life, careful analysis rather than a knee-jerk reaction is always the best way,” Weiman recommends. “Their families can remind them that there is no urgency to react and take any action right away except to call their families and ask if this is legitimate.”

Tip 2: Install anti-virus and anti-malware software

Elderly people are also increasingly falling victim to a scam called tech-support fraud, which occurs when criminals trick victims into giving them remote access to their computers under the guise of providing technical support, according to the Department of Justice.

Provide an extra layer of protection on devices by installing anti-virus or anti-malware software, the report says. This can help prevent some scams from coming through. Remember to not only protect computers, but any device that can connect to the internet — like a tablet or phone.

Weiman recommends Norton, McAfee and Windows Defender (part of the Windows operating system) as protection. She also suggests “MalwareBytes, the free version, (which) can regularly remove all kinds of viruses and malware.”

Advise the seniors in your life to also be wary of technical support that contacts them first and to be sure they know with whom they're talking before allowing any sort of access to the computer, the report says. Services like Apple Care will often ask their customers to hide sensitive information before gaining access and will not be able to manipulate things on the screen beyond an arrow that shows customers where to click.

Tip 3: Make a plan

Explain to the senior in your life that if they are concerned they may have clicked or downloaded something harmful, to make a plan of action. Reiterate that mistakes do happen, and everyone is susceptible to online scams.

“There are pop-ups that resemble virus checkers that tell seniors that a virus has infected their computer and that they need to click a link to fix it or get help,” Weiman said. “Clicking this link actually lets in malware that infects the computer and either allows the hackers to search the computer or locks it on restarting.”

Weiman recommends that seniors "should immediately turn off the computer when they see anything asking for money, such as an email or pop-up notice. As long as no link has been clicked, all they need to do is restart and run a virus and malware checker.”

Millions of seniors are victims of tech scams each year, but that number is most likely much higher because many don’t report or reach out for help, the Department of Justice said. Let your elderly ones know that they are not alone, and that they can always ask for aid.

![Carrie Rogers-Whitehead](http://img.ksl.com/slc/2585/258536/25853698\.jpg?filter=ksl/65x65)
About the Author: Carrie Rogers-Whitehead -----------------------------------------

Carrie Rogers-Whitehead is the CEO of Digital Respons-Ability, and her company trains parents, educators and students on digital citizenship. She is also a college instructor, mother and author of the upcoming book “Digital Citizenship in Schools.”

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