You have probably put off a vacation or most any travel for more than a year with the threat of the pandemic making taking a flight seem about as safe as jumping into a tank of alligators. But with the majority of adults in America vaccinated and you with your own vax card you can now make plans…and so can almost every other American including your older loved one. Your mom or dad will be anticipating the crowds at the airport, so they are looking to bring their TSA precheck clearance current. They also will perhaps be receiving all manner of solicitations from hotels, resorts, cruise companies and more.
But there is cyber danger out there.
One of the principal rules of cyber security is the cyber criminals know to go where the people are, and the more people the better the odds of scamming more of them. It’s not unlike fishing where your chances of catching more than one fish are much better if you can find where the fish are gathering. One of the folks in our orbit went on line to renew their TSA status which had lapsed during the pandemic. After all, who needed that when no one was flying anywhere? Having entered “renew TSA” in the search bar they were offered a number of links from which they chose the one that told them what they wanted to see. They proceeded to fill out the tedious government reapplication form and got to the end where credit card information was requested, and they provided that as well only to get an alarm that the information could not be processed. Frustrated, they entered the card information again and received the alert again. They tried another credit card with the same result. The next day both credit card companies called and emailed fraud alerts, both helped them close the cards and both issued replacements. Story over?
This is where the story can be just beginning, because the scammers still retained name and birth date and address information. Scammers compile many thousands of such identities so that even when their charges don’t get processed they can merge the data with other scammed data available on the dark web. The size of these data bases gives new meaning to “mega data.”
A cyber security expert, Bryant Wallace, CEO of WallScott Solutions, tells us that the first sting of this scam may be just the beginning. Scammers will continue with mail sent to the prey’s home address, to their email address, or they may call. The credit card may have been neutralized, but the scammers are now laying siege to their targets. If you have an older loved one who is starting up their post-pandemic travel plans, Mr. Scott offers these warnings:
- Beware of sites that do not have the right domain suffix (government sites are .gov)
- Beware of unsolicited email offers that seem awkward in their language or logos (English may not be the first language of the scammers)
- Beware of solicitations that know more about you than they should (Because you have shared it with someone in their orbit)
- Beware that the address begins with https:// (It means it’s a secured link)
- Beware of the same issues with mailed correspondence.
Notice that we have not even talked about hacking. These hazards to which older individuals are particularly vulnerable are traps into which they easily fall. Hacking is fraud gone nuclear, and Mr. Wallace can explain the steps that need to be taken to avoid being taken for a ride…and we’re not talking a flight to your older loved one’s paradise vacation. Take care of mom or dad, and travel safely.
Charlotte Bishop is a Caregiver Coach, an Aging Life Care Advisor, a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.