In recent years, the number of online scams has grown – especially with the advent of the pandemic. With more people connected to the internet, the opportunities for fraud and hacking attacks have only increased. And a group that was particularly fragile in this context was elderly.
A study by the Brazilian Federation of Banks (Febraban) showed that, in 2020 alone, the occurrences of attempted financial scams against the elderly on the internet increased by 60% compared to the previous period.
That is why it is essential to inform older relatives and friends about the main tactics of scammers on the network – and, more importantly, how to prevent them.
Basic internet protection strategies
For efficient internet protection, seniors and other internet users must follow some basic rules of behavior on the internet. The main ones are these 3: avoid public Wi-Fi networks, use a VPN (before purchasing, you can try VPN free trial), have an updated antivirus on all devices, and never use easy and repeated passwords on your accounts.
The issue of public Wi-Fi networks has to do with the fragility of these hotspots. Most of them do not require a password to access it, and anyone can use it within the perimeter of the hotel, restaurant, or airport that provides them. This is a gateway for hackers who want to break into the devices of unsuspecting users.
In emergency cases, an alternative to protect yourself on these networks is to use a VPN – an application capable of creating a protective cloak of encryption that covers your data traffic in order to prevent outsiders from decoding your online activities.
Classic antiviruses, in turn, are useful to prevent infections by malicious files. Keeping one of these programs up-to-date on your devices can be the difference between surfing the net smoothly or having major headaches.
And finally, perhaps the most overlooked aspect of all: passwords. As obvious as it is, it can't be said too much that your internet security is as strong as your access codes. Predictable or easy-to-guess character combinations are one of the main causes of account breaches.
Therefore, always look for unique and complex passwords to increase the protection of all your online credentials.
The 3 most common scams and what to do to protect yourself from them
Another way to educate your elderly loved ones is to give them a general idea of how internet scams work and what can be done to guard against the situation. Below are the 3 most common scams today.
1 – Millionaire Awards
A common strategy is sending emails that promise incredible rewards in the most diverse contexts. These are lottery prizes or contests, alleged inheritances from unknown rich relatives, and requests for help with international transfers of absurd amounts. The stories may vary, but the objective is always the same: to take advantage of the good faith of less familiar people.
What to do?
When faced with such messages, the best attitude is to ignore them completely. Never conduct financial transactions or share personal data via email with strangers. If in doubt, contact the bank or official employee to verify the information.
2 – Digital clones
One of the biggest problems with the active use of social media is the excessive sharing of personal information. Scammers can collect this data and use it to guess passwords or even impersonate users and can also practice fraud such as bank loans and credit cards.
What to do?
Limiting the amount of personal information shared online is the most effective strategy. It is also important to check the privacy policies of all platforms used and manually define who can have access to your posts.
3 – Charities
Scams involving “charities” are another way to abuse the innocence of the elderly on the internet. Usually carried out through fake emails or messages, these scams use emotional images and stories to trick victims into their schemes and provide criminals with credit card or bank deposit details.
What to do?
The best thing to do is to verify the integrity of the institution. A quick Google search can be all it takes to unmask fake organizations. And if the name of the organisation is legitimate, look for an official channel. Never provide data or make payments without verifying the information first.