Magazine article Work & Family Life

Helping Older People Avoid Online Scams

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Helping Older People Avoid Online Scams

Article excerpt

Ever receive an official-looking e-mail saying there was a problem with your bank account or credit card - and you must act immediately to avoid a suspension of services? If you have, the message almost certainly was from con artists who were "phishing," a high-tech scam based on fake e-mail that many older people new to the online world are falling for these days.

If you or an older person you know are using the Internet, be cautious. Scammers behind these messages want you to click on a link in the e-mail which will take you to their websites, where they'll ask you for your social security number, password, credit card number or other confidential information.

Giving up this information can result in identity theft and consumer fraud - crimes costly to the legitimate company that was cheated and to a victim's credit, at the very least. The damage can be difficult to spot right away or to quickly undo.

Here are some other things to tell your parents or other older relative.

How to tell if an e-mail is fake

Phished e-mail looks like the real thing - with forged logos and addresses that mimic the company's own. The fakes typically have the following characteristics.

Generic greeting: For example, Dear eBay member or Dear Citibank customer.

Demand for action: Ignoring this message will result in a suspension of your account within 24 hours.

Request for sensitive information: For example, Please update your credit card number or password.

Important to resist the bait

If you receive this type of e-mail message:

Do not click on any links contained in the e-mail. The banks, credit cards and other companies with which you do business will never ask you to provide this confidential information through e-mail. Close the phished message and send it to the trash.

To report the fake e-mail to the company it spoofed, simply forward it. Do not make any changes in it or add any attachments.

If you gave up personal information in response to a phished e-mail, contact the bank, credit card or company involved. Explain what happened and do as advised. Then check closely for any unauthorized charges on your monthly statements.

For safer online auctions

These days, online auctions - websites that allow you to bid on everything from vintage linens to used police cars - are a booming business, and the leading Internet-related complaint to the Federal Trade Commission.

The main complaints are that items were not received, arrived damaged or were not described accurately. …

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