Technology Scams Targeted at Seniors

Online FraudA computer connected to the Internet can be a lifeline for seniors. It’s a way to stay connected to their families as well as their finances. Unfortunately seniors are often targets for scam artists hoping to prey on their ignorance in managing their technology.  I recently helped a client clean up the mess following a tech support incident. Hopefully the lessons we learned can help you or a loved one avoid falling victim to this type of scheme.

Pretending to be Tech Support

It all starts with a phone call, someone claiming to be from a tech support department associated with well-known companies like Microsoft or Apple.  The call goes something like this:

“We’ve noticed that you’re computer is running slowly. You may have been infected by a virus and malware. We’re calling you to help you fix the problem.”

Because many seniors aren’t savvy about their devices, they get confused when the “helpful” tech launches into techno-babble… all designed to confuse and overwhelm their would-be victim. They use high-pressure techniques to sell support services that are unnecessary (at best) or end up being very harmful. Or, the tech volunteers to use “remote access” to diagnose the potential problem free of charge. It all goes downhill from there.

According to the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, seniors are disproportionately targeted for these types of scams. In October 2015, the FTC testified to Congress that 18,000 tech-support scam complaints were received in the first eight months of 2015! 56% of the victims were more than 60 years old.

Financial Risks of Technology Scams

In the case of my client, she ended up paying for a yearly subscription for a software that would supposedly protect her computer from virus and other attacks. It may have been innocuous… simply paying for something that would sit on her computer and do nothing. Or, it could be a program that captured data like keystrokes, allowing the scammers further access to sensitive information. We didn’t wait to find out. When learning of the event, I immediately:

  • Called her credit card company to dispute the charge and alerted them of the scam. We also request a new card.
  • Had a trusted computer tech come to her house and wipe her computer clean
  • Changed any passwords to online banking accounts that may have been compromised

Awareness for Prevention

If you’re caring for a senior or have a loved one who is elderly, make them aware of this scam. Tell them that unsolicited calls from “tech support” just don’t happen. If they are ever in doubt about their computer or other technology devices, tell them to call you or a trusted resource. Better safe than sorry!

Photo credit: Don Hankins

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