I guess I’m just lucky – after all, it’s not every day someone offers me $17 million dollars.
I opened an email this morning from Heinrich Albert Ruiten (whom I’ve never met or heard of in my life). Heinrich offered to divvy up $34,995,000US between the two of us, generous guy that he is. All I had to agree to do is have my name listed as a beneficiary of the estate of some poor schmuck (whom I’ve also never met). I know, I know, it all sounds too good to be true but Heinrich assured me in his email that it’s a genuine business. I haven’t had such a good offer since a Nigerian prince sent me an email asking for my help in exchange for a reward. . .
Heinrich and my Nigerian “pal” are perpetrators of fraud and fortunately, I’ve been around this virtual block enough times to know it when I see it but the same can’t always be said for seniors. And the reason why might be surprising.
While lack of experience with email in general might account for some of the reason seniors are often the victims of Internet fraud, researchers at the University of Iowa might have found a different reason. They have identified an area of the brain – the ventromedial prefrontal cortex – that governs belief and doubt. Unfortunately, as we age, this area can deteriorate, possibly explaining why some seniors are particularly susceptible to fraudsters.
The implications are huge. Last year, MetLife pegged the dollar amount for financial abuse of the elderly coming in at close to three billion dollars. According to a survey by Visa Canada, while seniors are the least likely to share personal information through social media, they are the most likely to send personal credit card information via email.
A simple first step is being aware of the findings in the study. If we know that brain changes that occur with aging can make us more susceptible to fraud, there’s a chance we’ll keep our guard up a little bit better.
Seniors should be encouraged to get trusted family members or a trusted financial advisor involved when they’re presented with potential scams disguised as financial opportunities. Family members need to understand that it may be necessary to take a more active role in protecting their aging parents than they might have taken in the past.
To help minimize frauds that present themselves via email, seniors should use email programs that have a spam filter. Unfortunately, this can’t be relied upon 100% since the scammers and fraudsters who send these emails out tailor their message in order to get around spam filters. More reliable is a program like PointerWare. PointerWare not only has a spam filter for email, it allows supporters to turn on a “white list” feature that results in the senior who is using PointerWare only receiving messages from known and trusted people who are listed in the senior’s address book.
What about you? Have you been the victim of fraud? Have you got any other tips for keeping seniors safe online? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you.
– Posted by Karen