Elder Cyber and Digital Abuse is on the Rise in Kentucky: Protect Your Family
Imagine this: Aubrey purchased a laptop for her aging mother, Dorothy last year, so Dorothy could stay in touch with her and her beloved grandchildren. While Dorothy was wary about logging onto the internet, the pandemic made it difficult to stay connected because she could not visit in person. Now, thanks to help from her daughters, Dorothy has set up an email, she surfs the news, plays online computer games, and dabbles in online shopping. Now Aubrey is concerned that Dorothy may be exposing herself to cyber scams or is not aware of danger online. How can she protect her elderly mom from internet scams, viruses, and elder fraud?
What is Elder Fraud?
Elder fraud is defined as the abuse, control or misappropriation of an elderly person's financial assets or personally identifiable information. A person may approach or target an elderly person on the internet for fraud because they are trusting or easily fooled, exposing the elderly loved one to identity theft and other forms of fraud. Many elderly folks are active on the internet, and scammers continue to adapt to take advantage. Your elderly loved one might receive robocalls or threatening emails purporting to be the IRS or Social Security Administration. Or they might get an email purporting to be from a grandchild who seems real, begging them to wire money. Even opening a phishing email can cause a person's private identifying information, passwords, and banking information to be exposed. Government authorities are aware of increasing threats to elderly victims on the internet and via telephone calls, but they simply cannot keep up with the deluge of existing cybersecurity threats. There are steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones from cyber threats, viruses, and identity theft.
Best Practices for Internet Safety
Explain to your elderly loved one that they should never open an email from a sender they do not recognize. Show them how to report an email as spam. In addition, install antivirus software on their personal computer and run optimization maintenance software on the PC once a week to identify potential threats. Even if a loved one recognizes an email sender, they should exercise caution before opening an email attachment, and especially before downloading software off of the internet. Regarding online shopping, no one should be saving payment information using auto-fill forms or using the same passwords for all online banking, email, and user accounts. If your elderly loved one is conducting business transactions, shopping or banking online, it is critical that they understand the importance of internet safety. Internet users should verify that a website is secure before entering payment information or other personal identifiable information (PII). On all browser toolbars, there should be a lock icon in the upper left-hand corner indicating the website's security certificate information. If that lock icon is not visible, leave the website, and clear browsing history.
Instruct your loved one to surf websites safely, and refrain from opening pop up ads or visiting unverified websites. This will reduce the likelihood of computer virus transmission or a ransomware or phishing attack. To avoid loss of important data and document files, make a habit to backup important documents to an external hard drive or USB drive on a routine basis, and teach your elderly loved one about creating secure passwords and updating passwords at least every 90 days. Enabling two-factor authentication also adds another layer of security by verifying a user's identity through a second device, like a cell phone, before allowing access.