How to protect a senior loved one from phishing scams

Sunrise Senior Living  |  September 11, 2017

As a family caregiver, you play a starring role in keeping your senior loved one safe. 

Besides making sure daily needs are met, monitoring their health, worrying about their well-being, and trying to make sure they experience joy every day.

With all that you have on your plate, it’s understandable if you don’t have time to keep up with technology. But the tech world continues to move forward, and that includes many savvy ways in which phishers are out to scam older Americans.

According to the 2016 BBB Scam Tracker Annual Risk Report, older Americans are most likely to fall for scams involving a family or friend “emergency.” But that doesn’t mean there aren’t several other types to watch out for.

Common Scams Targeting Seniors

Here are the top tips for protecting your senior loved one from today’s most savvy phishing scams.

1. Always be Suspicious of Emails or Phone Calls Asking for Personal Information

The most popular means of contact for phishers are phone calls, websites, and emails. Each is used approximately 18 to 23 percent of the time, according to the BBB Scam Tracker Report. 

It’s easy to ignore a phone call when you don’t recognize the number on the caller ID. That’s why emails have become a primary avenue for scammers to snatch up sensitive personal data.

It might be useful to take the same approach to security that you use with phone calls. Encourage your senior loved one to respond only to emails from trusted friends and family members. Ignore and delete all others.

2. Know that Phishers are Fond of Scare Tactics

Phishers aren’t just talented scammers and technical whizzes. Very often, they are well-versed in the power of emotional manipulation. Seniors who aren’t aware of these scare tactics can be vulnerable to identity theft.

For example, a phisher may send an email telling recipients they need to update some information in their accounts. If this isn’t completed, they warn, the account will be locked or services will be delayed.

Seniors, who can often be more trusting, may feel pressured by those tactics and fall right into the trap. Even if they’ve been warned about clicking through to a website from an email or giving out personal data over the phone, the threats they perceive may cause them to ignore any danger signals they may be picking up.

What if your senior loved one receives email from a source they use ---such as their bank or physician’s office --- and they believe the emails are legitimate?

They should contact the merchant directly in order to update any information.

Also encourage them to type the address of the company’s website directly into the browser bar rather than clicking on the link in an email.

For phone calls, have them hang up and call the merchant directly.

4. Don’t Trust Information Requests That Seem Generic

One quick way to spot a phishing email is to look for “Dear Sir/Madam” or other generic-sounding phrases. If an email truly is from your senior loved one’s bank, credit card, or an online merchant they do business with, it will most likely use their name and/or part of their account number.

Online Safety at Sunrise Senior Living

Internet and email safety awareness is essential for older Americans. Phishing scams can have devastating results. But with good guidance and lots of caution, most seniors can avoid becoming a victim.

At Sunrise Senior Living, our residents enjoy the benefits of technology, just like younger generations. After all, email, online photo-sharing, and browsing the internet are all part of keeping up with loved ones and with the world.

Our Live With Learning program encourages safe internet use while helping seniors explore technology. To learn more, call us or schedule a visit to a Sunrise community near you using our online form.