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How to Protect Yourself Against Online Scams

ID Theft Protection for Seniors

Online scams are becoming more prevalent. Unfortunately, the most vulnerable populations are often targeted, such as seniors. Scammers will often try to steal someone’s identity or money, or both at the same time. Be wary of cyber blackmail. It's a form of cybercrime where an individual or group threatens to reveal sensitive or private information about a person or organization unless a demand is met.

Top 5 Scams that Target Seniors

  • Grandparent scam: Fraudsters impersonate a grandchild or claim to represent them, often stating they are in urgent need of money due to an emergency such as being stranded in another country or facing legal trouble. They exploit the love and concern grandparents have for their grandchildren to extort money.
  • Tech support scam: Scammers pose as technical support representatives from well-known companies, claiming that the victim's computer has a virus or security issue. They then convince the victim to provide remote access to their computer or to purchase unnecessary software or services.
  • Medicare fraud: Scammers may contact seniors pretending to be from Medicare, offering free medical services or equipment in exchange for personal information, Medicare numbers, or payment. They use this information to commit identity theft or fraudulent billing.
  • Sweepstakes/lottery scam: Seniors are often targeted with fraudulent sweepstakes or lottery schemes, where they are informed they have won a large sum of money. However, to claim their prize, they must first pay taxes, fees, or other expenses. The promised winnings never materialize, and the scammers disappear with the victim's money.
  • Romance scam: Scammers create fake online profiles on dating websites or social media platforms to establish romantic relationships with seniors. After gaining the victim's trust and affection, they request money for various reasons, such as medical emergencies, travel expenses, or financial difficulties. Once the money is sent, the scammer disappears, leaving the victim heartbroken and financially devastated.

Common Scams and How to Avoid Them

1. Fake Great Grandchild Scam

With this scam, the scammer will contact the victim and pretend to be their grandchild, saying something like: “Guess who it is?” As soon as the unsuspecting grandparent guesses the most likely name, the scammer has enough information to check on Facebook or other social media platforms for personal information and can now use a fake identity.

After establishing a relationship with the grandparent, they will ask for money and usually get away with it. Avoid getting scammed this way by making sure of who you are speaking to and call the grandchild or their parent to check if it is them making calls to you.

2. Healthcare Scam

A scammer will typically call an elderly person pretending to be a medical health care representative to gain access to their personal information. They then call a few days later claiming to have spoken to their child (or another relative) and that it’s alright for them to give their social security number.

Another common scam is when the scammer convinces the victim to take a medical insurance plan and then pocket the money themselves. Always ask questions to confirm who is on the other line, and if you are unsure, hang up.

3. Investment Scams

This scam has been around for many years and has caught many innocent people. There are so many people in the world who are just scraping through each month, so when a “great opportunity” to multiply your money comes along, they are bound to jump at it.

Many of these financial scams happen over the phone when some unknown person contacts the victim on WhatsApp and quickly introduces them to an “amazing” investment plan. They typically come with the promise of a small initial investment of $100 to $500 with a rather handsome return within the first few days or a month.

Before you know what’s happening, they will tell you that your investment has grown unexpectedly, but that you should withdraw money so you can invest a little more first. They might also tell you that there are taxes to be paid before a withdrawal can be made.

Products to Help Protect Against Identity Theft

ID theft protection is important to use to help ensure you’re always safe, especially if you have social media accounts. Think of it as taking out insurance for identity protection. These three products are highly recommended.

1. Aura

This plan is ranked as the most comprehensive product to protect seniors from identity theft. Aura has various plans available from $12 per month up to $50 per month, depending on the type of coverage you choose. Their services include online account monitoring, spam call site removal, antivirus software, financial fraud protection and dark web scanning.

Aura also offers excellent 24/7 customer service with a live chat which will help you navigate through any issues or questions you may have.

2. Identity Guard

Using IBM Watson technology to monitor accounts and scan the dark web, Identity Guard is another top product to consider for a protection plan. With a wide range of subscription plans, you can choose what will be best suited to your needs.

Their plans are extremely affordable, starting at a low $7.50 per month, and go up to $39.99 per month. Identity Guard also offers the additional feature of risk management which shows you what you can do to better protect your identity.

3. Zander Insurance

Coming in as the most affordable product and endorsed by Dave Ramsey, Zander Insurance offers plans for as little as $6 per month and they offer a broad spectrum of protection against identity theft. Their coverage against fraud includes tax, medical, financial and social security to name a few.

Zander Insurance will ensure that your credit accounts, bank accounts, investment accounts and card payments are monitored.

What is Cyber Blackmail?

Cyber blackmail, also known as cyber extortion, is a form of cybercrime where an individual or group threatens to reveal sensitive or private information about a person or organization unless a demand is met. This demand often involves the payment of money or other forms of extortion.

In the context of personal cybersecurity, cyber blackmail may involve threats to release compromising photos or videos, personal information, or other sensitive data unless the victim complies with the blackmailer's demands. In cases involving organizations, cyber blackmail may include threats to release confidential business information, intellectual property, or customer data unless specific demands are met, such as paying a ransom or taking certain actions.

Getting Help if You’ve Been Scammed

If you’ve fallen victim to an identity theft scam, follow these steps:

  • If you have identity theft insurance, file a claim immediately.
  • Notify any affected companies (credit card, bank, etc.) of your stolen identity so they are aware that someone else may be active on your accounts.
  • File a report with the Federal Trade Commission by calling 01-877-438-4338. Make sure to write down the case number and any other relevant information so you have a record of your report.
  • Freeze your credit accounts and if you don’t have a monitoring service. If you don’t have one, sign up for one right away to avoid identity theft happening in the future.

You might be asking yourself, “Why would anyone want to steal my identity?” People use other people’s identities to open credit accounts, file tax returns or get access to your social security number or credit card information and use your identity to empty your bank and credit card accounts. Besides identification theft, there are many scams to be aware of. This is why it's important to use ID theft protection.