4 Most Common Cyber Attacks Used Against Older People in 2018

Cyber criminals preying on the elderly is a big problem throughout the world. While all age groups are equally vulnerable to two-bit frauds, the elderly may be prone just a bit more. Many retirees, widowers and lonely grandparents may have their entire nest egg easily accessible, and that makes them targets.

There are other factors as well. Many elderly arrived late on the technology scene and would have developed easy habits such as an unwillingness to use complex passwords or learn about new security hacks. As a generation, they generally are more polite to strangers, a trait potential fraudsters often use to reel in their victims. Having said this, with a little bit of awareness, the elderly can avoid becoming victims to the most common forms of cyber attacks.

According to 2017 peer-reviewed research in Colorado, 102 older adults and 91 younger people were subjected to psychological tests on phishing detection. Their ability to suspect replicas of popular eCommerce websites was measured. All the individuals were regular Internet users, had no brain injuries and gave informed consent for participation in the study.

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The older adults reported twice the likelihood of becoming a victim of phishing attacks compared to younger adults (53.47% vs. 26.37%). They also confessed to letting their guard down more often at home as compared to laboratory settings (47.47% vs. 18.68%). Although it is just one research on phishing, the implications are quite serious.

Tips: irrespective of age, one must take basic security precautions to protect against phishing. These include updating your OS and applications and changing the DNS server that can prevent URL misdirection.

A few more tips include:

  1. “If too many windows are opening without your permission on a browser, use Alt + F4 to shut everything down.”
  2. “It is always a good habit to clear the browser cache frequently. Use Ctrl + H on Google Chrome.”
  3. “Set up strong passwords. If you cannot remember them, save them using tools like LastPass.”

For obvious reasons, the elderly are frequently a target of certain kinds of behavioral attacks. These include senior dating and romance scams, anti-aging and other prescription pills, charity and investment swindles, and fake help requests by “family members.” While anyone can fall prey to a well-oiled con job, what makes some of the elderly more vulnerable is their loneliness.

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Tips: One of the best ways to deal with behavioral scams is to change your privacy options in Windows “Settings.” It is also recommended to turn Windows Defender Security Center settings on to prevent any misdirection to online scam websites. Also, never open en email attachment from people you do not trust. Immediately hang up on any phone calls or chat messages that may appear suspicious.

Fake e-Commerce websites are on the prowl for vulnerable elderly who may not have sufficient knowledge about their genuineness. When they order online, there is a chance that the product may not be delivered at all, or that it might come with hidden charges. It is important to check if the website in question is genuine. There are agencies such as Better Business Bureau which list all genuine online businesses.

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Tips: supposing you buy frequently from Amazon.com, avoid dealing with companies having questionable server IP addresses and email aliases such as:

  • amazon-support123@live.com
  • support@nice-amazon.com

Most identity thefts begin at the weakest link: a poor password or PIN. The other day I had to assist an older uncle in his mid 60s after he got locked out of his own Facebook account. He used a simple numeric password that, according to Kaspersky password check tool, wouldn’t have taken longer than three minutes to crack. Later he told me he uses the same eight-digit numeric password for Gmail, bank accounts and the government tax portal!

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Tips: irrespective of age, it should be standard practice to avoid sharing personal details including credit card numbers, one time passwords, date of birth and other inputs with anyone let alone random strangers. Always suspect people claiming to be from a government agency, tax audit firm and other scaremongers.

Despite several notable exceptions, many senior citizens are not nearly as tech-savvy as the millennial generation. However, the tips above will serve as a strong deterrent against most unpredictable attacks.

What is your take on this topic? Do you disagree with the assumption that the elderly may be more vulnerable to cyber-criminals? If yes, do let us know.

5 comments

  1. “While all age groups are equally vulnerable to two-bit frauds, the elderly may be prone just a bit more.”
    Spoken like a real condescending, arrogant, young snot.

    “Do you disagree with the assumption that the elderly may be more vulnerable to cyber-criminals?”
    Definitely.
    The article is biased and discriminatory. While the “elderly” may be less tech-savvy, the younger whipper snappers are way more Internet-promiscuous. Being less tech-savvy, the elderly are more reluctant to try any new site on the ‘Net just to keep up with their peers as the tech-savvy non-elderly. The elderly have no irresistible urge to appear “kewl” and “with it” all the time.

    “Identity Theft”
    Interestingly, ads for companies like LifeLock do not show any elderly, only young professionals. That means that those companies do not give a damn about the elderly or that the young ‘uns are more susceptible.

  2. Wow dragonmouth… you sound like a real condescending, arrogant, young snot yourself.

    As a more senior person myself, who has been using computers since 1985 (gasp!) and then the internet since circa 1996/7 and am reasonably internet savvy, even I have been almost fooled by internet criminals so to think that those who have only come on board since say the early 2000’s are going to be (collectively) savvy is incredibly naive.

    And with the increasingly sophisticated scam/phishing/whatever new trick attacks happening, it will be much easier to fall victim to these scum.

    • @Eric:
      We are both basically saying the same thing – ANYBODY is vulnerable. What I resent in this article is the implication that just being elderly makes one more susceptible to scams and cyber attacks asif the young were invulnerable.

  3. There has been no intention to malign people belonging to ANY age group.

    Let us focus on what the article does say which are serious issues. A lot of elderly are quite vulnerable to cyber frauds because they are slightly behind the technology ladder. My father does not know what CTRL + Z is yet he is quite active on social media. I gave the anecdote of an uncle (absolutely real incident) who goes to set up numeric passwords. I know of elderly from different countries who are in the same boat. There is a detailed study mentioned in this article about the elderly and phishing detection. I never saw a millennial struggling so badly with technology. Of course they do exist but that is much rarer than the older crowd.

    At the end it is not about age. There are those who have spent the prime of their lives without ever having a touched a computer. Not all of them certainly, of course not the elderly readers of this blog because if you enjoy reading the tech articles here, then it means this specific article was not talking about you! You are probably a geek and it doesn’t matter how old you are.

    Lastly, a few comments did not seem to have gone through on this blog. You can choose to disagree as much as you want but please remember this is a reputed tech blog. Profanities and personal attacks do not belong here.

  4. Being born in the 60’s?..I was “there” when the internet blossomed (remember Prodigy?…CompuServe and AOL discs coming in the mail!?…hahah) I’ve used Windows 3.1 right on up to the version that is out now…that crap called Windows 10. I do not think age has much to do with it. I work in the IT field, (and have been since 1999!) And I for one have never been “caught” by a phishing email…nor any other form of tomfoolery. I guess I just naturally don’t trust ANYONE. I don’t ever subscribe to the IRS calling me to tell me I owe anything. (Because in a court of law?…I would win….as my family lawyer says…”If its not in black & white?…it never happened”) so when it comes to that?…it would behoove the IRS to send me any notices in the MAIL not E-Mail..but MAIL!
    As for phone scams?….(and this might sound strange) but I don’t answer the phone if its not a number I recognize. I have the “Three Count Rule”: You have three times to call me from any unknown number. If within those three calls you don’t leave me a voice message? You number gets blocked. My logic goes like this: If you REALLY wanted to speak to me?…you’d leave a name and number where I can call you back. If after THREE times you’ve left nothing? Then you’re just trying to catch me off guard. So from that point forward you will get the automated message that “The Number You’re Trying To Reach…..Is Not Accepting Calls At This Time….Please Try Your Call Again Later.” Which will tell you the same thing for as many times as you call. (Gotta love the auto-block feature on these modern phones nowadays huh?) and you might think I’d get annoyed by you calling me 15 to 30 times a day, but that’s also a part of the auto-block feature, it “silences” all calls that are on the block list…so YOU might hear the phone ringing relentlessly, I don’t hear anything, AND I don’t get the nuisance of seeing “xxx-xxx-xxxx calling” for hours at a time. In short?…you become as important as a termite, burrowing its way through a tree trunk, in the middle of a forest, during the coldest time of year in SIBERIA…LoL!
    And finally, I live in a “gun free” state which means I can “carry” just about anywhere I go, so I’m not worried about being “approached” by strangers. I have a few rules…if you walk towards me, at 7 feet away? I’m going to ask you if I can help you at 4 feet away, I’m reaching into my jacket / coat, and if you get closer than 3 ft?

    There’s going to be an “incident”.

    So for me?…the whole being elderly and susceptible to all manner of Internet / phone scams…isn’t that much of a big deal.
    As for passwords?…that too I have covered, I’ve been creating and using passwords since 1980… with a few “guidelines” of course… I try to make them “common” words….usually either 12 to 24 characters in length, and I use all manner of substitutions for letters, numbers, symbols etc. I have yet to have anything I’ve used hacked. And finally, I don’t use Windows or Mac, I use Linux which literally forces you to use your computer with a bit more common sense, and a lot less carelessness. But hey….that’s just me!

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