- Maria Webb is the program manager for FiftyForward’s Victory Over Crime Program and chair of the Middle Tennessee Elder Watch Committee.
- Grace Smith is the executive director of AgeWell Middle Tennessee.
June 15 is designated as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
As more of us grow older, it’s important to recognize that there are many ways in which elder abuse can occur, including financial exploitation. In fact, scams are one of the most common forms of financial exploitation and, unfortunately, older adults are frequently targeted.
It’s estimated that 1 in 5 Americans 65 or older have been financially exploited, losing billions of dollars each year to these tactics. The 2021 FBI Internet Crime Report reflects that older Americans suffer the greatest financial loss of any age group.
Among older adults 65 and older, internet use has increased with an estimated 75% spending time online. As technology evolves and landline phones are phased out, more adults are using smartphones.
According to Pew Research, 61% of adults 65 and older own a phone that connects to the internet, increasing exposure to phishing emails, scams, and identity theft.
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Internet scams can be disguised
Scammers attack in a variety of ways. Generally, they are attempting to get personal information, such as bank or credit card information, Social Security numbers, or email accounts and passwords.
Internet scams are disguised as advertisements, emails, on-screen pop-ups, or social media messages and friend requests. Many requests for information attempt to create a sense of fear or urgency so people will act quickly without stopping to think about who is requesting the information.
For example, while online, an on-screen message pops up, claiming a virus was found on your computer. The message requests that you call a phone number associated with the supposed tech support company.
Another scam uses an email warning of a potentially fraudulent charge on your account, encouraging you to call the scammer’s customer support number.
Don’t fall for it!
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Remember these guidelines to promote online safety
Staying up to date on mobile phone and internet safety and learning ways to combat scams can increase online safety.
To better protect yourself and aging loved ones, especially those with memory loss and cognitive impairment, consider these safety tips:
- Use a pin or password to lock your phone.
- Download apps only from trusted sources.
- Do not give out personal information to anyone you don’t trust, online or over the phone.
- Do not allow someone to pressure you into making a snap decision.
- Never give unknown, unverified persons remote access to devices or accounts.
- Choose a personalized password that uses a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols. Create a unique password for all accounts and add two step authentication if provided the opportunity.
- Do not open emails or text message links that you receive from unknown sources.
- Double check the source by calling the company or looking at the sender address.
- Add only people you know on social media sites. Adding strangers could expose you and your personal information to scammers.
- Double-check to make sure you are on the right website and that the link is secure before you enter personal and payment information. Secure links include a lock icon in front of the website page in the address bar.
- Make online purchases with your credit card. Fraudulent charges on a credit card can usually be disputed, whereas that might not be the case with other payment methods.
- Do your shopping or banking on a known online network and not on public Wi-Fi.
- Consult family members and caregivers about potential purchases before going through with it. Never give away information on an impulse unless you are absolutely positive it is to a trusted or familiar source.
- Reach out to the company directly if you feel concerned.
Remember the old adage “If something is too good to be true, then it probably is.”
Support and continued education are available.
To stay informed on the latest scams and ways to protect yourself, visit https://agewelltn.org/scam-prevention or https://www.ftc.gov. If you are over the age of 50, live in Davidson County and have been the victim of abuse, exploitation or another crime, call FiftyForward Victory Over Crime at 615-743-3417 for free assistance or visit https://fiftyforward.org/supportive-care/victory-over-crime.
As members of the Middle Tennessee Elder Watch, convened by AgeWell Middle Tennessee and including FiftyForward, You Have the Power, AARP, Metro Office of Family Safety, Mid-Cumberland Human Resource Agency, Greater Nashville Regional Council, Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency, Metro Nashville Police Department and Adult Protective Services, we ask everyone in our community to be vigilant against scams and work together to prevent elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
Maria Webb is the program manager for FiftyForward’s Victory Over Crime Program and chair of the Middle Tennessee Elder Watch Committee. Grace Smith is the executive director of AgeWell Middle Tennessee.