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Smartphone Scams Against Seniors

Written by Kelley Keehn

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

According to a recent survey, smartphones can equal freedom and connectivity for seniors.

My mom of 80 years wouldn't part with her gadget for anything. She wakes up eager to find out what her friends are doing, she shares posts about her gardening glories and challenges herself with several games of solitaire throughout the day.

Because she's relatively new to the internet and technology, she still doesn't grasp that someone reaching out to her by text or one of the social media platforms she visits could be a fraudster.

I'm not alone in my concern. Laura Tamblyn Watts, LLB and Chief Public Policy Officer for CARP (Canadian Association for Retired Persons), is worried for the growing number of seniors embracing technology and the potential threats that await them.

“Seniors often feel safe with their mobile devices," says Watts. "It's what they use to talk to friends and family. When someone reaches out pretending to know them, they may have their guard down."

Three Smartphone Scams Canadian Seniors Should Look Out For

  • The Digital Grandparent Scam. In the past, fraudsters relied on the old fashioned landline for the trick. But now, a text may come in saying “Grandma/grandpa, it's me. I need help." The senior is then tricked into providing a name ("Frankie, is that you?"). The texter provides some emergency, such as being in jail or an issue with their car that needs immediate attention. They request the victim to wire the money so it's untraceable and often they provide an address to the nearest place to do it.
  • You're Locked Out of Your Account. This fear tactic can be focused on your bank account, social media sites or more. Often on a Friday before a long weekend, you may receive a fake email from your bank demanding that if you don't click the link they've sent, you'll be locked out of your money. A scary email for anyone to receive, but your financial institution as well as your social media sites would never send you a note demanding such a request.
  • Romance Scams. This is the number one scam aimed at seniors according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and, mobile and social media make it so much easier to dupe an unsuspecting senior. Many people use their phones in the safety of their home and because they're often talking to family and real friends, when a fake person contacts them with a warm picture and offers some personal details (that they easily found on social sites), the victim may be more likely to respond. The thought that they're potentially a criminal from halfway across the world may not enter the victim's mind. Be careful when accepting friend invitations from people you don't know, and never wire money.

Receive Something Fishy? Take a Moment

    Connecting with the world through a smartphone is an exciting and wonderful thing. Just remember that your phone is both an opportunity and a potential vulnerability. Stop and pause before responding if something strikes you as odd, and don't click links or open attachments unless you're 100% sure they're legit.

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