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Tech Scams Target Older Adults

scamming older adultsAnyone who has raised children in the 21st century can probably remember helping their young ones learn how to stay safe while out of the house, and later while driving the car and in between while surfing the internet.  If you also have an older loved one, you may now have to work with mom or dad to be alert to the new scams targeting the unsuspecting who have internet access.  It is not just a matter of helping your older loved one install current anti-viral and anti-malware software.  The new scammers are taking advantage of the perfect storm of technology, trust and assets.

Today more than three in five adults over age 65 have access to the internet, and nearly four of every five have a cell phone. According to Microsoft there is a new consumer scam taking advantage of these technologies and the trust of their owners to dupe an estimated 3.3 million individuals – many of them 65 years and older – of an estimated $1.5 billion.  It starts with their phone when an alleged representative of Microsoft or Windows calls advising of a virus detected on their equipment.  The consultant directs them to log on and go to a support web site that will double-check their computers for the trouble.  Once logged on to the site, malware is installed that can hijack any personal or financial information your trusting loved one may have on their computer.  But be aware that Microsoft does not make outbound calls.

Or it may be just the phone alone that gives the bad guys access to your older loved one. Ask your loved one if they have received any calls where no one was on the line when they picked up.  If so, they may be part of an automated system that is accumulating a data base of people who can be targeted for later scams.  If your older loved one does not yet have caller ID, have it installed.

Or the number one fraud presently taking advantage of people’s phone access poses as a representative of the IRS. This may be the one phone call everyone dreads, but the simple fact is that the IRS does not make outbound phone calls.  That said, when an unknown caller invokes the name of the IRS and then proceeds to make demands, most people – elders included – can become very intimidated.  Let your older loved one know about this, and if they ever receive a call like this or from any of a number of agencies or federal offices, simply look up the number of the nearest office by that name and call them yourself.  Again, the IRS – or any other predator – does not call you; you need to call them.

Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Professional and 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. Please email your questions to


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