The street you grew up on. Your favorite pet’s name. Your grandmother’s maiden name. These fun, trivial facts shared on Facebook may actually be putting your loved one’s financial future in jeopardy. Phishing, or an attempt by cybercriminals to obtain sensitive information from targeted individuals, is an all-too-common scam and generally preys on seniors and individuals less familiar with technology.
And while phishing scams have traditionally arrived via email, they have now infiltrated social media platforms and are arriving via text message as well. According to the National Council on Aging, older adults lose an estimated $3 billion each year to financial scams. Caregivers can play a key role in protecting their loved ones’ financial security, but first you need to help them recognize the signs.
Email phishing protection
It’s easy to forget about protecting personal information, as we’re all more accustomed to providing information on secure sites like online banking or online bill pay. However, as online scams become more sophisticated, it’s important to be aware of some of the trickier tactics. Some helpful tips are below:
Check the email domain
Phishing scams often come in a legitimate-looking email, but encourage your loved ones to look at the email address, not just the sender’s name. For example, a legitimate email from Amazon will come from “@amazon.com.” If the domain name doesn’t match the company name or is slightly misspelled, it could be a phishing attempt. The best way to check a domain name is to type the company’s name into the search engine.
Look for errors
Phishing emails can look like they came directly from a company’s corporate communications department. However, many share a tell-tale sign of broken English, incorrect grammar and misspelled words. If something from an email looks a little “off,” make sure to look a little more closely before clicking any links in the email.
Ignore attachments and links
Phishing attempts often try to encourage the recipient to download an attachment or click on a link. The end goal is to capture information such as login credentials, credit card details, phone numbers and account numbers. Encourage your loved ones to avoid clicking on unknown links. They can verify the link by hovering the mouse over the link and confirming the destination in a small bar on the bottom of the browser.
Social media and messaging
Scammers have expanded outside of email attacks and are trying to reach vulnerable seniors via social media or text messaging. Seniors may not be as familiar with the social media or text messaging pitfalls, so it’s especially important they stay aware of potential security issues.
Typical Facebook phishing attempts come through a message with a link that asks you to provide or confirm personal information. The link may lead to a lookalike Facebook site to attempt to get you to enter your login information.
Ignore “urgent” texts
Encourage your loved one to ignore and delete text messages with “urgent” messages from a government agency, bank or other company. These messages typically ask consumers to provide usernames, passwords and credit card numbers that scammers can use to commit fraud.
The bottom line
It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Encourage your loved ones to never send money, personal information, or financial information to even legitimate-looking sources. Using payment platforms like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Pay or even PayPal can provide an extra layer of security. Above all, encourage your loved ones to check with you before providing funds or information to any out-of-the-ordinary requests.