It is not always easy to spot a scam, they can be very convincing. Do not make the mistake of not reporting the crime, do not feel embarrassed if you have already lost money, just stand up to it by providing as much detail as possible for the police and fraud prevention teams to stop them from getting to someone else and likely you again.
Recently there have been some very concerning calls from my clients. Computer scams to steal as much money as possible from them and even a women claiming to be a Dietician - guaranteeing to help a senior lose weight. They all have one thing in common they are preying upon a seniors vulnerability.
You can protect yourself by knowing what to watch for.
Having received four desperate calls for help in which a message popped up on a seniors computer screen claiming they needed to call technical support to recover their computer, I have to make sure as many people hear this message as possible.
Email is one of the easiest ways for cyber criminals to target ordinary citizens. They get into someones email account and access all of their email contacts sending out fraudulent emails that appear to be from someone you know. A good rule is to automatically delete anything that looks out of the ordinary. If your friends email oddly shows up in your junk mail - delete it. This is likely a case in which their email contacts have been hacked and it is fraudulent.
Another good rule is to delete all junk mail without clicking or opening it.
1. Have a trusted antivirus software installed. Be sure your download it from a secure site - one with a little lock icon in the search bar. If you are not sure do a google search about the site to see what others have said about it.
2. Ensure your firewall is turned ON
3. Ensure you keep software up to date. If that is confusing for you, turn on automatic updates. These updates help prevent security flaws in older or out dated software.
4. NEVER give out your date of birth, Social security or bank account number over email. Be particularly wary if someone is requesting it.
5. Choose a STRONG password - for seniors it may be easiest to use a phrase rather than a word. Longer = more difficult to guess. keep track of them on a piece of paper or with a password manager such as Dashlane or Zoho Vault.
6. Only use trusted Wi-Fi. Free Wi-Fi seems great, but hackers can use it to intercept your communications.
International Technical Support Scam - these groups are targeting Microsoft users by fraudulently popping up a message on your computer screen stating that your system has been hit by malware, hacked or the like, and for consumers to call the number on the screen for help. Naturally the message is fake and the fraudulent call centre is all too happy to step you through allowing them to access your computer remotely to diagnose the fake problem for you.
Ultimately tricking you into believing you have a serious malware infection "stressing the risk to the consumer's financial security". When actually they want access to your computer so they can:
download malware onto your computer
sometimes to steal your financial and identity information
trick you into giving them your credit card information
sell you fake software for hundreds of dollars for a non-existent problem
These fake call centres aim to sell you bogus services for exorbitant fees. Several of these bogus call centres have been raided and the servers seized in various parts of India. Sadly it won't be the end of it, another criminal group will take its place, so be vigilant!
Microsoft NEVER calls you, or sends you pop up messages
The Dietician - this someone claiming to provide a service but is charging excessive amounts ultimately scamming seniors out of money. Who knows if she actually has any legitimate training as a dietician or if she just decided to scam a low income senior into giving her every penny he has, with the false promise of guaranteeing he will lose the weight he wants to try to be healthier. Always check people out, do some research online, check for any complaints.
What to do after You have become a victim
1. Change ALL login information. I f you use the same user & password for another site be sure to change those too!
2. Monitor financial accounts, contact banks quickly if you gave out your card information. Once you recognize you have fallen victim CALL YOUR FINANCIAL INSTITUTION they will assist you with taking the necessary steps to keep the fraudsters from stealing any more from you. If you are not sure if you have been victimized - CALL YOUR BANK ANYWAY. The financial institutions will be happy to assist you with prevention too!
3. Watch out for phishing attacks. Victims of fraud are often targeted a second or third time with the promise of recovering money previously lost. Always do your due diligence and never send money to recover money.
4. If your financial institution offers any free credit monitoring - take advantage of it to help catch new accounts being opened in your name.
5. Place a FREE Fraud alert on your account with Equifax, Trans-union or Experian. The one year alert requires lenders to verify your identity before issuing credit.
6. Gather all information about the fraud. This includes documents, receipts, copies of emails and/or text messages.
7. Report the incident to your local law enforcement. This ensures that your police of jurisdiction is aware of what scams are targeting their residents and businesses. Keep a log of all your calls and record all file or occurrence numbers.
8. Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre toll free at 1-888-495-8501 or through the Fraud Reporting System (FRS).
9. If the fraud took place online through Facebook, eBay, a classified ad such as Kijiji or a dating website, be sure to report the incident directly to the website. These details can be found under "report abuse" or "report an ad."