Cyber Security Tips for Seniors (2016)

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Did you know October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month? Each year since 2010, there have been an average of 300,000 annual cases of cyber crime reported to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), resulting in total losses of between $800 million and $1 billion.

For better perspective, the average dollar loss per victim last year came out to $3,718. That’s a meaningful chunk of change for anyone, but especially for a senior on a fixed income.

Approximately 18 percent of those cases were reported by victims over the age of 60 – but that number should realistically be MUCH higher. The unfortunate reality is that many seniors are less likely to report a fraud because they don’t know where to go or they’re too embarrassed to talk about it.

At Concordia, we serve thousands of people every month, whether it’s in one of our skilled nursing centers, senior living communities or through in home senior care services. Our Director of Information Technology Meridith McGinnis offered some info and definitions to help seniors avoid being the victim of a cyber crime.

First, what is Cyber Security? Cyber security is the act of protecting your personal information that is stored on computers and the internet, such as in your email, cell phone, online stores, credit cards and online banking.

There are a number of scams seniors especially need to be aware of and protect themselves from while online. A few include:

Debt elimination: Debt elimination schemes generally involve websites advertising a “legal” way to dispose of mortgage loans and credit card debts. Typically, participants are required to pay an exorbitant fee in advance, and provide all their personal information (which also leads to identity theft).

Work from home: Through ads in newspapers, online job sites, emails and social networking sites, scammers recruit people looking to work from home for extra income to unknowingly steal or launder money.

IRS, Social Security, Medicare or FBI impersonation: Through emails and social networking sites, scammers impersonate a government official to scam/extort money from the victim. Government agencies DO NOT send unsolicited emails.

Romance/Family assistance: In cyber-romance scams, the scammer initiates and builds an online relationship with the individual through dating websites, social network sites or email. They eventually request money through wire transfer for an airline ticket to meet up or some other difficulty. Similarly, a scammer who has gained access to their personal information will impersonate a family member in trouble, requesting a fast money transfer.

Lotteries: The lottery scheme involves an email saying you have been selected as the winner of an international lottery, but you need to pay a processing fee to initiate the process.

How do you protect yourselves and loved ones?  Here are a few basic tips:

  • Make sure you use antivirus on your computer and turn on auto-updates
  • Install recommended updates for your computer’s operating system
  • Use strong and unique passwords, changing them periodically
  • Exhibit caution when using social networking and dating sites
  • Use secure sites when banking and purchasing on-line (the address in the address bar will start with https://)
  • Do not open emails from people you do not know
  • Don’t give out personal information via the phone, mail or Internet unless you initiated the contact
  • Talk over investments with a trusted friend, family member or financial advisor    

For more tips and scammer tactics used to target seniors and others, visit the FBI’s IC3 website at Other online resources include AARP, StaySafe, the National Crime Prevention Council and the Department of Homeland Security.

Concordia is hosting a Cyber Security for Seniors Seminar at our South Hills Pittsburgh location on October 18. The event is open to the community.

For many seniors, one reason for considering a move to a senior care community is to live a worry-free lifestyle with a higher sense of security. Concordia Lutheran Ministries has offered senior care for over 130 years. For more information on what we offer at each of our locations and levels of care, visit our website or call our corporate headquarters at 724-352-1571.You can also message us through the Contact form on our website 24 hours a day.

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