Approximately 96 per cent of Canadian seniors age 70 and older are using the internet at least once a week to check email, manage money and keep in touch via social media. While the internet can provide conveniences and entertainment to seniors, all this time online could be putting them at risk for scams and hacks.
A new survey by Home Instead Senior Care found that two-thirds (64 per cent) of Canadian seniors online have been the victim or target of at least one common online scam or hack. More than one-third (39 per cent) report that someone has tried to scam them online and 29 per cent of surveyed seniors have mistakenly downloaded a computer virus.
To help seniors understand potential hazards and how to prevent fraud, Home Instead Senior Care collaborated with Public Safety Canada to launch a national public education program, Protect Seniors Online.
“We understand the stress seniors feel when they perceive their financial security – and their independence – may be at risk,” said Don Henke, owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office serving Kelowna and Penticton.
“Unfortunately, we know scammers often target seniors. That’s why we’re committed to educating and empowering seniors to proactively protect themselves. Implementing simple cybersecurity best practices can go a long way in helping seniors protect sensitive information and reduce their risks online.”
The Protect Seniors Online program offers free resources and tips to help seniors understand how scammers operate, familiarizes themselves with the most common scams targeted at seniors, and provides proactive steps seniors and caregivers can take to protect sensitive information. The resources include the web-based Can You Spot an Online Scam? quiz to test seniors’ cyber security knowledge.
According to the National Cyber Security Alliance and the Better Business Bureau, here are five of the hottest cyber scams that older adults need to avoid:
1. Tech support scams: These types of scams can appear as “pop-ups,” that show up on computer screens and look like legitimate offers from reputable companies such as Microsoft. They could be selling fake software or asking for remote computer access, or install malware to steal personal and financial information.
2. Tax scams: The tax season provides another window of opportunity for online fraudsters. Online criminals will sometimes send emails claiming they are from the Canada Revenue Agency and there is something wrong with your recent tax return. They will even threaten to contact police if you don’t pay the fine ASAP. Public Safety Canada explains that the CRA will never contact you via email if there is a problem with your return.
3. Ransomware: This is a malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid. Prevent ransomware by ensuring your system has an up-to-date antivirus system. Also, never open suspicious emails from unknown senders, do not download attachments from senders you do not trust or suspicious emails, and avoid clicking on links in suspicious emails.
4. False debt collectors: False debt collection emails often come as official-looking documents and the tone of the emails may be threatening and urgent. Do not respond, open any attachments or click on any links. Delete these emails. If you’re concerned about whether you owe money, contact any creditors directly to find out if they sent the emails.
5. Sweepstakes scams: A sweepstakes scam often asks you to pay to receive your prize. Another version of this is a charity scam, asking you to help those in need. Sweepstakes and charities scams prey on emotions, and scam charities may have names similar to real charities. However, they usually cannot provide important documentation of their identity and mission, nor provide proof of tax-deductible contribution. If you believe the charity is legitimate, you can check it out by looking up the number and calling it.