Bob Roth

Looking back over the last year of this pandemic, hindsight is 20/20. As I work daily to protect our aging seniors, the topic that I ponder most often is the paradox of our digital age.

On the one hand, technology has enabled us to work, see our friends and family, and maintain as much normalcy as possible while we stay inside during the pandemic.

On the other hand, that same technology has created new opportunities for the victimization of our seniors — the very population that we’re trying to protect by staying home.

Cyber criminals often make senior citizens their primary target. These vulnerable older adults, who have assets in a retirement account from a lifetime of hard work, are low-hanging fruit for these fraudsters.

Seniors have become increasingly vulnerable during the pandemic, as circumstances converged to create a perfect storm. There is an abundance of bad actors who prey on our aging loved ones and their lack of technical expertise. Many older adults who have never banked or scheduled doctor appointments online are now expected to do so, forcing them outside of their comfort zones.

Due to the pandemic, the elderly are not gathering with friends who sometimes act as gatekeepers and sounding boards to advise them on possible scams. It is a vicious cycle: The social distance becomes social isolation that leads to more time spent online increasing the likelihood of falling victim to a scam. There is also the shame and embarrassment that leads many of our seniors to stay silent instead of warning friends to avoid the same scam.

One recurring scam happens when an unassuming older adult is online and a pop-up window appears warning the user that the computer is at risk and they need to call the number flashing on the screen immediately. Once the senior is on the phone, the scammer talks them into allowing a remote access application to establish control over the computer. Every piece of that senior’s personal information from the computer is available for the taking and the victim’s savings and identity are at risk. 

Unfortunately, older adults will continue to face a barrage of online scams as pandemic continues. Fraudsters are seeking to reroute stimulus checks, sell fake test kits and the latest snake oil as a cure. Seniors must be on the lookout for calls, texts, emails and social media posts that request financial or other personal information.

The Federal Trade Commission’s website suggests seven ways to avoid coronavirus scams:

Learn how to tell the difference between a real contact tracer and a scammer. Legitimate tracers need health information, not money or personal financial information.

Do not respond to texts, emails or calls about checks from the government.

Ignore offers for vaccinations and miracle treatments or cures. Scammers are selling products to treat or prevent COVID-19 without proof that they work.

Be wary of ads for test kits. Many test kits advertised have not been approved by the FDA and aren’t necessarily accurate. Almost all authorized home tests don’t provide rapid results and require you to send a sample to a lab for analysis.

Hang up on robocalls. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from low-priced health insurance to work-at-home schemes.

Watch for emails claiming to be from the CDC or WHO. Use sites like coronavirus.gov and usa.gov/coronavirus to get the latest information. And don’t click on links from sources you don’t know.

Do your homework when it comes to donations. Never donate in cash, by gift card or by wiring money.

Remember the old adage: If it seems too good to be true, more than likely, it probably is. JN

Bob Roth is the managing partner of Cypress HomeCare Solutions.

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