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How To Avoid Online Scams

As America ages, we are seeing a significant rise in fraudulent financial exploitation or financial abuse against the older generation. Criminals have discovered that the elderly are a particularly productive path to easy ill-gotten gains. Some research sources estimate that these crimes defraud victims of an annual loss of more than $36 billion.

The most common way to keeping yourself and loved ones safe is using common sense. That being said, the emotional aspects of falling for a skilled scammer cannot be overlooked. With an eye towards our older clients and friends, you may want to be aware of the following known scams.

The IRS/Social Security/FBI/Medicare Won’t Ever Email Or Call You. Ever.

This is a very common email scam where the scammers pose as a representative of a governmental authority. They could email or phone you asking for your Social Security number, address, passwords, and other identifying information. Some will offer to send you money if you provide your bank account information. Don’t do it. The agencies listed above (and other government entities) will always only contact you by sending “snail mail.” None of these organizations will email or call you.

Romance on the Internet and/or Phone

When folks get lonely, they may become convinced that someone likes them and wants to have a relationship. It is common for fraudulent “relationships” to start on the internet, but these scams eventually lead to phone calls. If someone who claims to love you is vague about their whereabouts and contact information, indicates that they can only call you and don’t give you their phone number, or wants to move quickly into a relationship, be on alert. The scam will eventually lead to their need for money or an offer to give you money (to get your bank information). Do not reveal any personal financial information over the phone to anyone that you don’t know well.

Ransomware

All over the world, the use of ransomware is rapidly growing. Attacks from ransomware doubled in the first half of 2021 compared with the first half of 2020. Ransomware is a kind of computer virus called malicious software or malware. It locks you out of your computer and demands a large amount of money in untraceable cryptocurrency for the return of files or even use of your computer. The message is often via email.

More typically, ransomware is directed toward businesses and government entities. However, a ransomware attack can happen to any computer user. For individuals, the threat may be to post your personal information online unless you pay. Even “fake” ransomware is a problem, where the criminals will tell you that they have your data when they don’t actually have it. The demand for money remains the same.

What to do if this happens to you? The first thing you should do is contact your local law enforcement as soon as possible. You should not try to resolve the situation yourself, without the help of the authorities or a tech expert.

Phishing Scams

This scam involves the criminals sending you fraudulent emails in an attempt to get you to reveal personal information. They are hoping to get passwords or financial information. A phishing scam could involve fake invoices or fake emails from well-known companies. The phishing email may tell you that there is a problem with an account. There is usually a link offered so that you can “confirm” your information. These types of scams are the #1 way that criminals get unauthorized access to people’s bank and brokerage accounts.

How can you protect yourself against phishing scams?  Read or check an email carefully before clicking on any links. If you have doubts, contact the actual company directly and ask about it. They likely know the current scams. You could also use cyber security software on your computer or set up “two-factor” authentication.

“Tech Support” Scams

Another common scam is the tech support scam. You may get an email or screen pop-up that says that your computer has a virus and that you should call the scammers who are posing as Apple or Google. They claim they can remove the virus for a fee. NEVER let them take remote control of your computer or give them any account information over the phone.

Fake Online Stores

Cybercriminals can very quickly set up an online store that looks legitimate. They are seeking your credit card number for their own use. They may try to entice you with greatly discounted prices. Just remember that when it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you are unfamiliar with a store, check with the Better Business Bureau or look online for reviews or scam reports. 

What Family and Trusted Caregivers Need to Know

Often, the older generation are victimized without any knowledge by the family or trusted caregivers. Those seniors that have been scammed are likely to be sensitive to criticism and try to hide the evidence of fraud due to embarrassment. They may fear that the fraud victimization is a stepping stone to losing their independence.

The loss of money should be readily obvious to any family or caregivers that are intimately involved with the senior’s finances. It is always recommended for every senior to have another financial “set of eyes” on their finances to observe any unexplained losses of funds or suspicious transactions.

Insight Wealth Strategies, LLC is a Registered Investment Adviser. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Insight Wealth Strategies, LLC and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure. Past performance is no guarantee of future returns. Investing involves risk and possible loss of principal capital. No advice may be rendered by Insight Wealth Strategies, LLC unless a client service agreement is in place.

Insight Wealth Strategies, LLC (IWS) and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.