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Security Awareness Month: Help Protect Seniors From Cyber Crime

Here we are, smack in the middle of cybersecurity awareness month.  And while we typically focus on educating employees on how protect their organizations, many of our customers have requested instruction and insight directed toward families—specifically, those who are seniors.

Many of our customers are the technical expert, honorary IT person, and security awareness educator in their families, all wrapped into one. As a result, they worry about scammers getting the best of their less tech-savvy relatives.

Why Security Awareness Should Be a High Priority for Seniors

For good reason, as there are endless stories about the Grams and the Gramps of the world getting duped and losing the savings in their bank accounts and/or—in many cases a worse fate—their identities.  

The Statistics Can Be Alarming

Arctic Wolf recently asked 400 security decision makers in the US, Canada, and the UK about the cyber threats facing their friends and family. 69% said they have at least one friend or family member over the age of 65 that has experienced financial loss due to a social engineering attack. And more than 10% know four or more seniors that suffered such a loss. We also learned:

  • 63% believe their friends and family aged 65+ are at very high or extremely high risk of falling victim of social engineering attacks.  
  • 40% think about cyber attacks putting friends and family aged 65+ at risk multiple times per week. 

To address this problem, we created a video to help educate the seniors in your family about what to look out for when they’re checking email and surfing the web, including information on some of the most popular scams today’s bad guys use to attack them. 

We hope that you will share this video with members of your family who may be vulnerable to such attacks, as we produced this video to help inform and protect them. 

And, to follow, we’ve compiled information on the four most common scams that our seniors face, and what can be done to avoid them. 

Four Scams Where Seniors Are Especially Vulnerable

1. Phishing

Bad actors are quite talented in crafting authentic-looking emails. However, just because something looks good doesn't mean it should be trusted. 

Phishing involves fraudulent communication with the intent of stealing sensitive data (such as login credentials or credit card information), deploying malware into a computer system, committing financial fraud, or practically any other nefarious endeavor you might imagine. 

It's wise to be cautious anytime you receive an email. Don't open documents or click on links from people you don't know. Even emails that apparently arrive from friends can be highly suspicious. If you're not sure why a friend is asking you to do something via email, call them to see about the request—the email you received just might be a fake. 

A stack of credit cards piled on top of each other with a fishing lure going through them.

2. Wake Up Calls  

Scammers love to take you by surprise. Many times, this will involve a ruse about someone you   know. This can come as a call in the middle of the night. The caller may pretend your family member has been arrested and needs bail money, or that they are experiencing a dangerous health crisis.  

In situations like these, it is important to talk to another family member that can verify whether what the caller said is true. 

No matter how worried or stressed they make you feel, if you do not know the caller, don’t give them money no matter the “urgency.” Be suspicious and verify with someone else you know and trust before providing information or funds that they might request. 

3. Fake Computer Warnings  

There’s a lot to learn when it comes understanding the ins and outs of your computer. Cybercriminals are adept at tricking you into thinking there could be something wrong with it. Often, they’ll make it look like your computer has a virus. Alarms and voices may sound from your computer speakers and you’ll see a phone number to call in order to stop the alarms and fix your computer. 

If you call, guess who will be on the other end of the line? Yep, the same bad guy who put that fake warning on your computer and now plans to scam you out of some money. In such scenarios, the perpetrators use fear and confusion to get you to call or chat with them. Then they often pressure you into sharing your screen, or have you pay for their “services.” 

Here’s the deal: DO NOT CALL THE PHONE NUMBER. Just close the browser, regardless of any warnings not to do so.  

4. Did You Make This Purchase?   

We generally appreciate when our bank or credit card company notifies us of unusual spending related to our accounts. So, when a call comes in asking if you bought an iPad on Amazon for $800 and you know you didn’t, you might be receptive to the caller who, in fact, is luring you into a common scam. 

People tend to react quickly and without hesitation when they fear their accounts are being used for fraudulent purchases. When you call or contact the inquirer to let them know you didn’t make the purchase, they take the next step in their deception.

The bad actor will try to convince you to share your computer screen, so they can help issue you a refund. Next, they might manipulate the appearance of the website so it seems you were refunded too much money and now owe them a significant sum.  

You can stop this scam in several spots. First, check the account yourself by logging into the official website or by calling the number on the back of your credit card to see if there have been unauthorized purchases. Second, never share your screen if you have your bank account, credit card accounts. or any other financial or vulnerable personal information open and available.  

As part of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, Arctic Wolf encourages you to share this blog post as well as the video so your family and friends can also stay safe and help end cyber risk. 

About the Author

Nathan Caldwell has been a marketing leader in the tech world for nearly 10 years. He served as the producer and head of video marketing for one of the largest MSP software companies, where he was a keynote producer and coached tech leaders in executive speaking. In his latest adventure, he helped create Arctic Wolf’s Managed Security Awareness solution. When not fighting cyber bad guys Nathan loves to speak about his book, Empowering Kindness, and enjoys taking his four kids to theme parks.

Profile Photo of Nathan Caldwell