Protecting Our Elders: How to Shield Loved Ones from Online Scams

In today’s digital age, online scams are proliferating, making it increasingly challenging to stay vigilant against security threats and scams. The concerning issue is not merely falling victim to these scams, as it’s relatively uncommon, but rather the vulnerability of our elderly family members, such as parents or grandparents. So, what can we do to assist and protect them from falling prey to online scams?

Many of us grew up hearing stories about elderly individuals falling victim to scams through teleshopping or catalog sales services. While the methods have evolved, the objective remains the same: to exploit those who may not realize they are being deceived. Online scams share this same aim, targeting individuals who are susceptible to manipulation, and often, these individuals are older. As concerned family members, we play a crucial role in helping our elderly loved ones avoid these scams.

senior checking phone

Understanding the Scale of the Problem

Online scams targeting the elderly are a global issue, resulting in annual losses exceeding two billion dollars. These scams come in various forms, from impersonating family members to posing as banks or other trusted entities. The pervasive nature of these scams puts all seniors at risk, and it’s a problem that warrants our attention.

Loneliness often makes individuals more vulnerable to scams, especially in their later years. Scammers are aware of this vulnerability and exploit it to their advantage. Married couples tend to be less susceptible to online scams, as they can often discuss and assess situations together. In contrast, recent widows or widowers face a higher risk, given their more vulnerable circumstances.

Assessing the Risk

While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all profile for potential scam victims among the elderly, there is one common factor: loneliness. Loneliness can lead to risks that may go unnoticed. Understanding this is a wake-up call, urging us to engage in open conversations with our aging family members.

Communication is Key

Initiating conversations about online scam risks may be met with resistance, as the traditional roles of parent and child have shifted. However, it’s essential to communicate openly and provide reassurance. Engage your parents or grandparents by involving them in security measures you’ve adopted personally. For instance, ask if you can set up their phone to receive bank notifications. This approach helps normalize security practices and reduces resistance.

Senior lady shopping in an online store

Educate Them About Online Scams

Online scams are different from the street scams of yesteryears. They represent a new world, often unfamiliar to older generations. Therefore, it’s our responsibility to educate them about the risks and empower them to recognize common situations. Teach them that legitimate banks never request credit card numbers or security access codes through unsolicited messages. Advise them to verify any urgent financial requests, especially if they receive SMS messages asking for money from alleged family members.

Help Them Technologically

While your parents or grandparents may have a smartphone, their usage may be limited to WhatsApp and basic functions. Offer them technical assistance to enhance their device security. Consider installing spam-blocking apps, registering their numbers on do-not-call lists, and reviewing their social media profiles for any suspicious contacts. It’s crucial to involve them in this process, checking their contacts together, and ensuring their profiles are secure.

Encourage Openness

Above all, stress the importance of reporting anything unusual they encounter online. Even if they believe a situation is genuine, they should inform you, allowing you to verify its authenticity. Creating an environment where they feel comfortable discussing any concerns or doubts is essential.

In the age of digital connectivity, our role as family members is not only to protect but also to empower our elderly loved ones to navigate the online world safely. By maintaining open lines of communication and sharing knowledge about online scams, we can collectively ensure their security and well-being in today’s digital landscape.