Recognizing Elder Scams
People need to ensure that their elderly relatives are aware of scams that target older people, according to Emma McGowan at Avast. McGowan says it’s best to avoid being condescending, and to remain aware that your older relatives have more experience than you.
“First, talk with them about what to look out for and how to protect themselves,” McGowan says. “And here’s an important point of emphasis: You need to talk with them, not at them. Your older relatives have a whole lifetime of experience; a whole lifetime of making their own decisions and relying on their own judgement. It’s unlikely that they’re going to want to be lectured by someone who is 20 or 30 or even 50 years younger than they are. Think about this way: Would you want your niece or nephew to lecture you about the safety of a neighborhood that you’d lived in for longer than they’ve been alive? Of course not! And to the same token, your older relatives don’t want to be lectured about safety online.”
McGowan explains that there are ways to show your relatives how scammers can target them.
“So instead of lecturing, empower them to take care of themselves,” McGowan writes. “One way to start the conversation is by googling their names and showing them what’s publicly available online. This is a good way to visually illustrate to them how easy it is for scammers to get information about someone.”
One of the best ways to help people avoid falling for scams is to tell them to ask you for your opinion if they think something might be a scam. Many scams try to isolate their victims to prevent them from asking for a second opinion.
“You can also offer to be their sounding board if they think something might be a scam, with no judgement,” McGowan says. “Tell them they can share any email, direct message, pop-up — anything — and you’ll help them figure out if it’s legit or not. That way, you get to help your parent (or grandparent or aunt or uncle) and they get the bonus of more time spent with you.”
New-school security awareness training can help people learn to avoid scams on their own and teach their loved ones to recognize these tactics as well.