Recently, a friend of mine called me with a problem: his elderly father in law that was living with him had his bank account hacked; nearly $10,000 had been stolen. Could we help?

We couldn’t retrieve the money, but we did take a look at his father’s laptop. Sure enough, it was rife with malware and a key-logger had gotten his bank credentials.

Unfortunately, our seniors are vulnerable to scams. These come both in the form of phishing emails or, alarmingly, by way of phone calls. CNN recently had an article about how these types of attacks have become common.

An example of how the scam works (from Daniel Miessler’s blog):

  1. Find an elderly target who has money
  2. Find out who their relatives are who they are likely to care about
  3. Call the target (the elderly relative) and tell them their loved one was just hit by a car and needs immediate surgery
  4. Ask for thousands of dollars to be put on a credit card (and act like its an emergency and they don’t have time to call relatives)

And, unhappily, a high number of seniors pay.

Some simple ways to prevent these attacks from being effective:

  • Second guess what you see and hear – don’t be afraid to ask questions! If something seems suspicious or too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Don’t open email attachments or download anything unless you know the person.
  • Add each recipient to your email individually – this will keep all others from getting past your SPAM filter.

Just as we need to have conversations with our children about online behavior, we also need to do the same with our elderly parents. In many ways, this discussion can be even harder, but just as necessary. Understanding and education will go a long way in keeping our loved ones from becoming the victims of scams.