The holidays are prime time for scammers – and the elderly are their favorite targets

By Jessica Hall

6 ways to protect yourself and your family from cybercriminals

When consumer spending increases, so does fraud activity. But you can avoid falling victim to cyber fraud during the holiday season.

“Cybercrime has become more sinister and more significant,” said Mike Steinbach, head of Citibank’s fraud prevention unit. “The American public needs to know that fraud has evolved. You shouldn’t expect monthly or quarterly reports. You should check your accounts regularly.”

The number of elderly victims has increased at an alarming rate and the sums they have lost are staggering. In 2021, more than 92,000 victims over the age of 60 reported losses of $1.7 billion to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This represents a 74% increase in losses compared to losses reported in 2020.

Among older victims, the most common crimes were tech support scams, identity theft and non-payment or non-delivery of goods or services, the FBI said. But the crimes that brought in the most money included romance and trust schemes, which totaled $432 million in losses.

Also read: Tech support fraud is the biggest scam for people over 60, taking them for millions – here are the red flags to watch out for

“Scammers have cyber tools to target phones and emails en masse and they hope someone bites them. It only takes one person to bite,” Steinbach said. “Some are very easy to see. Some are very hard to see. Some sound and look very legit.”

“All ages and demographics are at risk. No one is immune – everyone is a potential target. But older people have savings, IRAs and other retirement accounts. Fraudsters go where the money is,” Steinbach said.

Cybercrime leads to damage and destruction of data, theft of money, loss of productivity, theft of intellectual property, and theft of personal and financial data, among other losses.

A 2020 report from Cybersecurity Ventures said the global costs of cybercrime are expected to increase by 15% per year, reaching $10.5 trillion per year by 2025.

Related: Scams and cryptocurrency can go hand in hand – here’s how they work and what to watch out for

Javelin Strategy and Research’s “2022 Identity Fraud Study: The Virtual Battleground” found a 90% increase in account takeovers between 2020 and 2021.

Identity fraud losses totaled $52 billion in 2021 and affected at least 42 million American adults as hackers moved more aggressively to ‘hacking victims’ online lives’ , according to the study.

The Justice Department said this month it was expanding its cross-national senior fraud strike force, adding 14 additional U.S. attorney offices to the existing six in a bid to crack down on sophisticated fraud schemes. that target or disproportionately affect older people.

Here are six tips to help you avoid scams, according to Citi, the FBI and AARP:

Beware of scammers who learned to spell: Be aware that scammers have gotten smarter. Emails and text links may closely mimic those of real companies or people you trust and may appear legitimate.

Beware of unsolicited messages: Be on the lookout for emails, text messages, and phone calls that ask you to provide personal or account information urgently. Do not click on a link in emails or text messages you receive unexpectedly and delete unsolicited incoming emails and text messages. And do not provide any personally identifying or account information in response to any communication you receive by phone, email, or text message.

Know that the federal government will not call you unsolicited and ask you for personal information. Agencies already have details like your Medicare and Social Security numbers. And no federal government agency will initiate serious contact with you via social media, text, or email; instead, most government correspondence will go through the US Postal Service.

Use multiple passwords: Vary the passwords you use for your email, online banking, credit card, and other financial accounts, and ideally change them every three months. If you use the same password for everything, a scammer who takes control of your email could quickly find a gateway to all your financial accounts. So mix up your passwords using strong combinations of letters and numbers or “passwords” – random combinations of words, numbers and symbols that are impossible to guess. Never keep passwords in a list on your computer.

Don’t take the call, make the call: If you receive a call from an unknown number, don’t answer or return it. Instead, contact your bank yourself by logging into their secure website or calling the customer service number on the back of your card to review your account information and activity.

Even if you receive a call from a number that appears on caller ID as your bank’s name and number, do not provide any personal information on that call, as fraudsters can easily spoof caller’s information. incoming caller ID. Legitimate customer service, security, or technical support companies will not initiate unsolicited contact with individuals. In the meantime, if a “tech support” pop-up or error message appears with a phone number, do not call that number. Legitimate error and warning messages never include phone numbers.

Slow down: Resist the pressure to act quickly. Criminals urge their victims to act quickly to protect their device or account.

Educate your loved ones: Even if they’re not tech-savvy, you can help your friends and family members by explaining schemes that target seniors, such as grandparenting scams in which someone calls pretending to be a grandchild or calling on behalf of a loved one who needs money in an emergency.

When recently sentencing one of eight perpetrators of a grandparenting scam, a federal judge described the scams as “heartbreakingly bad.” This group engaged in extortion and criminal enterprise fraud to defraud elderly victims across the country of more than $2 million.

-Jessica room


(END) Dow Jones Newswire

10/22/22 1219ET

Copyright (c) 2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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