Tech-Support Scam: Protect Your Elderly Loved Ones From Scammers

Seniors are vulnerable to scams. The elderly population across the United States are falling for and becoming victims of fraudulent activities. One of the most common, and increasingly becoming more prevalent, is the tech support scam.

Older adults are not as familiar with computers as the generation who grew up in a world where laptops, tablets, and smartphones are around and accessible. When they receive a fake error message on websites, or when they receive a phone call from an individual claiming to be tech support, they unknowingly engage with a scammer.

Every year, millions of dollars are stolen by scammers from seniors. In 2018 alone, people lost a total of $55 million from tech support scams. In 2019, federal investigators filed charges against two men who made $10 million from scamming over 7,500 elderly victims.

It is a serious problem, but it can be averted. Households can start by guiding their elderly loved ones about common scams and how to keep themselves safe while using their devices.

Is Anything Broken?

Devices break and, often, seniors do not know what to do. When a device is broken, it should be seen by a trusted computer repair service or technician.

However, often, scammers contact their would-be victims even when nothing is wrong. The error message that your elderly loved one saw is probably not real. It was planted by scammers on the website that the user visited. If the message comes with a phone number, do not call it. The scammer will convince the owner of the device to install software from a third-party platform that may contain malware.

In other cases, the victim may receive a phone call from individuals who claim to be from Microsoft or Apple. This is a scam, too. Microsoft has already stated that the company would not make unsolicited phone calls to users. Their representatives would also not ask for personal information to provide technical support. Apple also would not directly contact users to fix their devices. The user has to bring their device to an authorized repair center, or the user has to contact the company online or by phone to request a repair. Either way, no tech support cold calls users and tells them that their device is broken.

Install an Antivirus Solution on Their PC

The internet is a dangerous place. By clicking a seemingly innocent link, they may be installing a virus or malware onto their device.

Mistakes happen, so protect their device from applications that contain misleading information or may harvest sensitive information about the user. Most antivirus and anti-malware solutions can detect and remove suspicious applications hiding in your loved one’s device. A quick scan will immediately identify the threat and remove it. Schedule regular scans to protect the device, and an elderly family member, from tech support scams and other fraudulent activities.

What to Do When a Senior Becomes a Victim of Scam

As soon as you or your loved one figures out that they have been scammed, act as quickly as possible. Do a full system scan of your computer for malicious programs that the scammer might have installed. Next, change all passwords to email and social media profiles as well as accounts in financial institutions.

If payment has been sent, call the bank immediately. Report that fraudulent activity has been performed on your account and you want the transaction to be reversed. Likely, the bank will oblige and will issue you a new card to prevent the scammers from taking out more money.

Monitor login activity. You would be able to see the location and device of anyone who is accessing accounts. The Windows Defender Firewall can block traffic to online services that the owner of the device would not normally access.

In addition, you should also change your phone numbers. It is not unlikely for a previous victim to receive phone calls from individuals posing as tech support. When a call center successfully carries out a tech support scam, they pass the victim’s details to other call centers that are also involved in the same shady business. Your elderly family member will receive more unsolicited phone calls from scammers.

Becoming a victim of a scam can be devastating. It takes away hard-earned money from people who need it.

Seniors fall for these crimes because they lack technological literacy. Family members should take the time to teach elderly loved ones about internet safety, common scams, and what to do when they encounter potentially fraudulent activities.