By Mat Batts the Dispatch
Home Instead Senior Care launched a nationwide campaign Friday aimed at better preparing seniors for internet scams and financial fraud attempts.
The effort, a partnership with the National Cyber Security Alliance, includes online resources as well as in-person seminars that provide detailed explanations of what online scams are and how senior citizens can stay protected.
The new program comes at a particularly relevant time locally, Home Instead Community Engagement Coordinator Shannon Holland said, as Davidson County residents continue to question how the sensitive information of more than 3,200 Davidson County Schools employees was breached through a phishing scam last month.
Holland said Lexington’s Home Instead office is offering the cybersecurity seminar to any community groups interested in learning more about the threats senior citizens could face.
According to a press release accompanying the fraud prevention rollout, Home Instead said senior citizens are often targeted by scammers because of a perceived accumulated wealth, and the idea that seniors might be less likely to report the crime.
“For seniors, this is a time in their lives when they should be able to trust that their life’s earning are protected,” Shanna Howard, owner of the local Home Instead office serving Davidson and Davie counties, said in the release. “Unfortunately, we know there are people who violate this trust.
“That’s why we are committed to helping seniors understand the ways they are at risk online and how to protect their information to reduce their chances of being scammed.”
Home Instead reported that nearly 97 percent of seniors age 70 and older are using the internet at least once a week to check email, manage money and keep in touch via social media. Of those who use the internet, according to a Home Instead survey, 67 percent have been the victim or target of at least one common online scam or hack. More than 38 percent, the survey said, report that someone has tried to scam them online, and 28 percent of surveyed seniors have mistakenly downloaded a computer virus.
According to a survey conducted by Home Instead on the cybersecurity risks senior citizens face, approximately one in five seniors operates a computer without any anti-virus software. Sixty-eight percent of the seniors surveyed report using a single password to protect their accounts across multiple websites.
Tax season also presents additional challenges for seniors who risk inadvertently revealing personal tax information or falling victim to a scam by someone posing as the IRS. While most seniors reported doing their taxes offline in the Home Instead survey, more 20 percent of seniors did report filing their taxes online and said they felt safe doing so.
Included in both the online and hard-copy information provided through the Home Instead program are tips on how to spot scams related to the IRS and who to contact in the event of an attempted scam.
“Cybersecurity is about risk reduction,” Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance, said in the release. “It’s difficult to achieve perfect security. But you can help older adults work to make themselves a more difficult target.”
Home Instead recommends that seniors create strong passwords and vary them from website to website, to avoid the risk of a large-scale breach in the event that a password is recovered by a scammer.
Additional tips also include monitoring a senior’s privacy settings on social media to ensure that information is shared only with close friends and family. Seniors who receive an inquiry online about taxes or a bank account should contact the company directly by phone to determine if the inquiry is legitimate.
An online quiz provided through protectseniorsonline.com walks seniors through 10 specific scenarios related to internet use, asking if they detect any red flags. Based on their answers, the quiz breaks down each risk with suggested courses of actions should a senior citizen come across a similar situation in real life.
Anyone interested in hosting a Home Instead internet security education seminar can contact Lexington’s Home Instead office at (336) 249-1011.
Mat Batts can be reached at (336) 249-3981, ext. 227, or at [email protected] Follow Mat on Twitter: @LexDispatchMB