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Email Spam and Email Scams: Serious Problem or Not?

Updated on June 30, 2017
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Seniors and Scammers

The internet, while now having been around for decades, is an entirely new thing for older generations who are just now accepting it. For many individuals who are 65+, it can be overwhelming and a bit scary to navigate even the simplest tasks on their computer; my grandmother has had a computer for many years, and has just this year started using the internet. It's really incredible to see how confident it has made her though. She can open and read emails (we're still working on replying), browse a website's photo gallery for house decor ideas, and even print said photos! I've seen first hand how learning to use the internet can be an incredible tool for giving an otherwise lonely person, a sense of independence and connection to the outside world!

Unfortunately though, seniors are often a prime target for scammers. Since they are stereotyped as not being tech-savvy while also having big savings lying around for retirement, con artists see them as ideal to go after to get away with their cash. Often, they target seniors through email, and not just as a disinherited prince from a far-away place. If you've ever been a victim of an online scam, you know it can be extremely discouraging and make you feel violated. This is why it's so important to educate our aging loved ones on the most common email scams, and what to do if they find themselves victim:

Updating or Verifying Your Personal Information

Often, companies you subscribe to will ask for updated information once and a while (for example, a legitimate company doing this would be your alma mater if you went to college – every so often, they will ask for your name and address for mailing purposes). However, if they are unfamiliar companies, have an unusual email, take a second look before responding. Verify who they are and if they are legitimate before engaging. If they ask for your social security number, delete the email and block the sender!

Medicare and IRS Scams

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Remember this: if the Government wants to contact you, they will do so with a letter, unless you have directed them to contact you via email (for example, your post-college loved ones may receive emails from the Government regarding federal student loans if they have chosen to go paperless). If you see a letter from Medicare and you haven’t chosen to receive anything from them via email, there is a big chance it’s a scam.

If you’ve lost someone close to you, watch out!

Losing a spouse or a loved one is especially hard, and scammers know this. If you have recently lost a spouse and get an email from someone trying to collect a debt from them, it is very likely a scam. Con artists will often comb obituaries and try to extort money from grieving people who already have so much on their plate, they don’t know up from down. Also, as with above, if anyone is trying to contact you officially, be they from the Government or from a collector, they will do so the very old-fashioned way, with a letter.

Fraudulent Products

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From prescriptions to anti-aging products, do your homework and talk to your doctor (especially with medication) before ordering online. If you see an email for a hot new product that promises to alleviate your problems, from wrinkles to joint aches, don’t just Google it – if you are truly interested, schedule an appointment with your doctor or a specialist and see if it is a legitimate product, or if they can get you a real product or medicine to help you.

Viral Checks

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These emails claim to be from anti-viral companies and ask for access to your computer remotely. Do not give it to them! They are from scammers who are trying to search your computer for information they can use to steal your identity!

Sweepstakes Scam

Emails that say you won something and have to pay money for it. If you have to pay a sum of money to collect a prize, or worse, give your personal information out, it’s not worth it and most likely a scam.

Remember...

Remember to be encouraging if an aging loved one finds themselves in the midst of an internet scam, and help them through it as best you can. Help them to understand that mistakes happen and that most of these scams can happen to anyone- not just them. The situation must be dealt with delicately so that moving forward, they can still feel confident when using the internet.

These are some common scams targeting seniors, but there are many more! Remember to be very careful about giving your personal information online or access to your computer remotely. For more information on online scams, or if you are or have been a victim of an online scam, you can find resources here: https://www.usa.gov/stop-scams-frauds

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