Scam of the Month (July 2016): Internet Fraud

COA_1Internet Fraud is in the top ten list of financial scams targeting older adults, largely because computers and the internet may be unfamiliar terrain. Pop-up browser windows simulating virus scanning software often fool victims into either downloading a fake anti-virus program (at a substantial cost) or an actual virus that will give the scammer access to information on the user’s computer.

Another frequent trap is email/phishing scams where a senior receives an email message that appears to be from a legitimate company or institution (i.e., bank or credit card company) asking them to “update” or “verify” their personal information. Don’t fall for it! One way to check the origin of the email is to click on the sender’s address: nine times out of ten it’s a personal email (e.g., a student with an address ending in .edu), not someone from the company.

Another frequent email trap is a message that appears to be from the IRS designed to trick taxpayers into providing personal information. In fact, in February of this year, the IRS warned that these email and texting scams have surged 400% so far this year! The messages typically ask for data related to tax refunds, filing status or seek confirmation of personal data (e.g., social security number or IRS personal identification number). When consumers click on the email link, they are sent to what appears to be a government website, but is really a fake site used by identity thieves. The IRS urges people not to click on these email links.

IT professionals recommend running a script blocking program (e.g., No Script) on web browsers to prevent spy scripts & malware. They also suggest using an anti-virus program to run a full scan daily on all computers, and to make sure that email scans are turned on so that attachments are scanned. Lastly, always check the email sender address and website address to make sure it is a trusted, legitimate source.

Source: National Council on Aging