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Common scams that older adults need to watch out for

At Get Cyber Safe, our goal is to make cyber security easy and simple for all Canadians. We believe that with the right advice and guidance, anyone can take control of their cyber safety. This blog post may be especially useful for older adults, who we define as Canadians over the age of 50, but we believe that the information could help anyone at any age, in any stage in their cyber security journey.

an older adult looks confused, while behind them are a credit card, a login window, a message envelope, a document and a shield with a padlock, all on fish hooksCyber criminals are keeping finding new and creative ways to steal from Canadians. All Canadians are at risk of being victimized by any cyber scam, but older adults are sometimes specifically targeted by certain cyber criminals. Here are some common scams that older adults need to watch out for and tips on how to protect themselves.

Romance scams

Looking for love online is made easier with the help of dating websites. But sometimes, profiles are just too good to be true with people using a fake account to trick you. Romance scams often happen when a cyber criminal creates a fake profile on a dating website in hopes of taking advantage of someone looking for a personal connection.

To avoid getting scammed, be careful about what personal information you share on dating sites. If someone asks for unusual or sensitive personal information, like your SIN or mother’s maiden name, block them. Never send money to anyone you have only met online, even if they have a convincing reason why they ‘need’ it. Report suspicious behaviour to the respective dating site right away.

Tech support scam

Have you ever received an email from a company asking for your personal information so they can ‘fix your device’? Well, you’re not the only one. Situations like these are common and, unfortunately, they’re getting harder to recognize. They are called tech support scams.

Cyber criminals pretend to be from well-known companies and say they found a problem with the device you’re using and ask for remote access to fix it. Do not give them any information. If they are calling you, hang up. And if they are contacting you through email, delete it and never click on any links or open any attachments. If a pop-up window appears asking you to grant remote access, close it immediately. Never give remote access to your computer in response to this type of notice or warning. If you are unsure, contact your internet service provider. No reputable tech company will contact you to repair your device unless you have already contacted them first.

It is important to be cautious with threatening or urgent messages that demand you act right now or face consequences (for example, messages stating that you need to fix your device right now or you’ll lose your data forever). This is a common sign of phishing scams, which occur when a cyber criminal tries to trick you into sharing personal or sensitive information, and is used to scare you into action.

Grandchild scam

This scam often begins with a phone call or email from a ‘family member’ in trouble who needs you to send them money or personal information now. They may claim to be your grandchild who is going to get arrested unless you send them cryptocurrency right away. This scam is created by cyber criminals who target older adults to steal from them by exploiting their love for their families.

Beware of any unexpected phone calls or messages from people claiming to be a loved one (like your grandchild). Ask yourself whether your loved one would actually need what they’re asking you for and whether they would contact you in this way to get it. Reach out to the loved one through another medium like calling them directly or messaging them on another social media platform to confirm the request. Do not feel rushed to act right away. Even in an emergency, your real loved ones would want you to be cautious and think it through!

Conclusion

With scams sometimes targeting older adults directly, it’s important to stay vigilant in order to stay secure online. If you or anyone you know has been the victim of cybercrime or fraud, report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

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