Cyberthreats are on the rise for both businesses and individuals. In the first half of 2020 alone, 36 billion personal records were exposed due to companies getting hacked. And since the start of the pandemic, the FBI’s Cyber Division reported a 400% increase in complaints.
If you’re retired or approaching retirement, you might be a target. Scammers go after seniors because they tend to be trusting, and they often have money saved up in financial accounts. Learn how to protect yourself or your loved ones from the heartache, stress, and monetary loss of elder fraud scams.
Most Common Scams Targeting Seniors
There are several ways bad actors go about trying to gain access to your systems and identity. Most scams focus on getting access to your private personal and financial information, or taking your money directly. Education is the first step in protecting your retirement savings, as knowing what to look out for will help you avoid getting taken advantage of.
Healthcare scams targeted at retirees typically involve Medicare. Common tricks include posing as a Medicare representative asking for your plan number, an outside insurance company pretending to offer additional Medicare coverage, and lately, COVID-19 related scams.
Tech Support Scams
In one popular swindle, a pop-up message, spam email, or blank screen will appear on your computer or phone, stating an urgent problem with your device. This is a ploy to get you to call the support number and either give remote access to your computer or pay for unnecessary repairs.
Phishing and Email Fraud
Email fraud is prevalent and takes a variety of forms. Watch out for fake emails with spammy links or attachments containing viruses, and phishing attacks, where criminals send emails in the guise of a company you know. Not only do these attacks put your personal and financial information at risk, but they can infect your device with malware and viruses.
This is where a “government employee” from the IRS, Social Security Administration, or Medicare threatens you with big fees, penalties, or even prosecution. In reality, they’re fraudsters trying to gain access to your identifying information or retiree benefits.
Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams
Shady characters love to prey on retirees by telling them they’ve won a prize, sweepstakes, lottery, or other contest. There’s just one catch – you have to pay an upfront fee or tax for the winnings.
7 Cybersecurity Tips for a Safe Online Experience
Developing a few safety measures and best practices will go a long way in reducing your risk. Here are 7 tips for better cyber-safety.
1. Use 2FA or MFA
Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) for an extra layer of security. Here’s how it works: when you try to log into a site or app, you’ll be prompted to enter a one-time code. Receive the code via text message and input it into the site or app to complete the login process. Authenticating via 2 separate devices helps confirm that you are you, and not a hacker.
2. Ensure Wireless Safety
Don’t do banking or access sensitive information from public wifi networks such as an airport, coffee shop, hotel, or library. Your own personal hotspot is safer, but you should still be careful on any unencrypted network. Don’t use public or shared computers, either.3. Keep Tabs on Your Apps
Add password protection to your Google Play or App Store accounts to keep unwanted parties from downloading apps to your phone if it falls into the wrong hands. Apps may ask permission to access your contacts, photos, camera, location, or other information. Think carefully before granting access and use the “rule of least privilege” to avoid giving away too much information.
4. Share with Caution
They say sharing is caring, but not when it comes to posting your personal information on the web. Avoid geotagging, don’t post that you’re going out of town, and never post sensitive info like your address or phone number online (such as on social media). Before inputting your personal information such as email address, phone number, or especially your social security or bank account number, make sure you have vetted the validity of the site.
5. Be Password Savvy
Smart password management is key to protecting your personal retirement savings. Make passwords easy to remember but hard to hack, using at least 12 characters, avoiding everyday words, and not using the same one for everything.
Update passwords every few months or so - but instead of writing them all down or keeping them in a document on your computer, which could easily be hacked, use a password manager. LastPass, Keeper, and Dashlane are all reputable (and free) online password managers.
6. Keep Your Browser Secure
An insecure web browser puts you at risk of spyware being installed on your computer surreptitiously. Attackers could take control of your computer and steal your information without you even knowing. Adjust your settings for optimum security on whichever browser you use (Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, etc.). Exact settings differ by browser.
Cybersecurity can be as simple as logging out of websites and apps after each session. Staying constantly logged in is convenient, but it opens your account up to security and privacy risks. Also, consider clearing your browsing history and cookies after each session to clean up your digital data trail.
7. Protect Your Devices
Use passwords or biometric features like a fingerprint to lock your devices. That way, if a device gets stolen, the thief won’t be able to access any of the information on your iphone, tablet or laptop. You can turn on this feature in the settings of your device.
Keeping your security software, web browser, and operating systems updated is another way to safeguard your devices. Opt-in to automatic updates if possible. Finally, protect your devices with antivirus software.
Scams like these are a burden to us all. But just like pickpockets shouldn’t keep you from enjoying your vacation, don’t let the threat of a cyberattack keep you from enjoying your time online. If you suspect you’ve been scammed, talk to someone you trust. If money has been taken from your accounts, call your bank. Adult Protective Services and the local police may be able to help as well.
If you’re as concerned about protecting your finances as you are about internet safety, make sure you’re working with a fiduciary. Fiduciaries are the only financial advisors bound by oath to act in the best interest of their clients. Fiduciary financial planners work on a fee-only basis (which means they don’t get commissions for selling you anything) and they must avoid any conflicts of interest.
To learn more about the fiduciary oath and learn how to identify fiduciary advisors, get our free guide!
For more advice on how to maintain safe online banking, shopping, and protecting your retirement savings, check out this video: