It’s no secret that cybercriminals are constantly evolving their tactics, and unfortunately, many choose to target an older audience. In fact, the National Council on Aging reports seniors lost a collective $3.1B to scammers in 2022. But while staying on top of cyber safety is important for everyone, the older audience likely has access to additional funding sources, such as pensions, retirement draws, and Social Security, which make them a particularly lucrative target. It’s sad, but the schemes are forever evolving. Here are three particularly convincing tactics that can be easy to fall for.
Don’t say “Yes”
Though it’s been around for several years now, the “Can you hear me?” phone scam continues to run strong—and for good reason: It plays on instinct. It’s fairly simple: A service calls and upon answering, asks “Can you hear me?” or “Is this _______?” Our instinct is to answer in the affirmative. However, in doing so, the caller can record your voice and use the recording to sign you up for a service or authorize charges.
While there’s been some debate over the exact degree of fallout from this one, a few best practices remain regardless:
- Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers—even if they appear to be calling from a local area.
- If you do answer, avoid using “yes.” Instead, either stay silent and hang up which could prevent your number from being affirmed as active and receiving additional spam attempts, or use a workaround like “this is she.”
- As always, do not give out any personal details, including your address, names of relatives, correcting the last four digits of a Social Security number, or credit card information.
Don’t be taken in by convincing emails
It’s no longer as easy as simply not responding back to the Nigerian prince who needs to share his fortune; phishing emails are becoming more sophisticated than ever. Savvy scammers use professional-looking HTML formats, featuring logos and vanity send lines from legit businesses.
The best answer? Don’t click.
- Remember, your financial providers will never ask for personal information through email. If an email seems legitimate, go directly to the provider’s site (or call)
- Do not click on anything in the email or use the information provided in the email—don’t assume the number in the footer is actually the correct number.
- Check the sender’s information. While the “to” may appear to be legitimate, clicking on that name will oftentimes reveal an alternate send email address.
Don’t get emotional
Slightly less common, but very real, are direct caller scams. In one instance, the caller will use a local number, feigning to be a grandchild who is in jail and needs bail. Of course, they won’t provide a name (because they won’t have one) and it’s all too easy for the answering caller to guess who “it’s me—your grandson” is. Scams like this prey on the emotions of the caller, leaving the answerer paying a scam account for a fictitious scenario.
- The best option is to simply not answer unknown calls.
- If you do answer, always confirm who’s calling by asking who’s calling (don’t volunteer information by guessing).
- Never provide financial information over the phone to someone who calls you
- Verify any account or caller by calling the supposed source directly—not by a phone number the caller provides.