Aging Options

Avoiding social media scams

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Everyone gets targeted by scammers, but scammers target each group differently.  Seniors are vulnerable to scams because a larger percentage of seniors are not computer savvy.  Scammers are not targeting the 92 year old who makes a living on e-Bay and can program a computer in his sleep.  They are targeting the large number of individuals that don’t understand that automatic updates don’t cost additional money and need to be agreed to for products to keep working the way you want them to.  They are targeting individuals that use their dog’s or cat’s names or their birthdate to create a password.  Another way that seniors get taken advantage of by scammers is by allowing someone they believe is credible to access their computer (sometimes that person is a relative).  By giving someone access to your computer, you put your private information at risk.  The Washington State Attorney General’s Office has an easy to understand website that has some excellent resources to help you avoid being scammed both as an individual who uses a computer and as an individual who uses resources that use a computer, which pretty much means everyone.

If you have a computer, you’re familiar with such names as Norton, McAfee and Symantec and because all of those products work in the background and they work so well, most of us don’t think much about what they do.  But consider this; in an article that came out this June, Symantec reported that in a 12-month period ending May 1, 2012, its software detected 8.5 million social networking scams.  Not computer scams: social networking, as in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like.  A report out from the Pew Internet & American Life Project indicates that older adults are a growing population of social media users, with 38 percent of individuals 65+ using at least one form of social media.  So while you’re cooing about the latest picture of your great-grandchild, someone else is trying to make money by selling fake products, collecting your personal information to sell to telemarketers or signing you up for premium subscription services.  Here’s a good beginning list of social media scams and here’s some information on how you can avoid being scammed.

  • Don’t share private information with someone online.
  • Make sure your privacy settings are kept updated.  If it’s difficult for you to keep up with your social media site’s privacy settings, cultivate a little one-on-one time with a computer savvy grandkid you can trust and make a regular date to verify that you are at a privacy setting you can trust.
  • Be careful of who you trust.  Everyone looks legitimate online.
  • Don’t post information such as when and where you are going on vacation or the names of your grandchildren
  • If something doesn’t sound right, it’s probably not.  If it’s an investment opportunity, be wary of unsolicited offers or offers that “a friend” has taken advantage of.

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