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Seniors and Scammers

People 60 years and older seem to be victimized more than any other group by scammers, whether they operate online or over the phone. While it’s always easy to let your guard down at any age, older people seem inclined to be more trusting when they get a phone call.

The rules for seniors apply to people of all ages. It starts with being an active listener and observer for three alarms.

The first alarm is visual as well as audible. Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) telephone systems are totally Internet based, and that allows any system owner to program a caller ID to appear as any phone number. It can be your local area code or an area code from anywhere in the US or the rest of the world. Scammers match a phone number to a name in a database, so it can even display a name that looks very normal with an unrelated phone number that looks normal. Sometimes, you’ll just see a string of random numbers. Be careful, and if something doesn’t sound right, disconnect the call. None of those phone numbers can be traced.

We live in a diverse society, so don’t take this second alarm the wrong way, but listen for an accent. A lot of scammers call from other countries because they can avoid a lot of laws in the US. If you hear an accent and something doesn’t sound right, don’t give the caller access to your computer or any other information and disconnect the call.

A third alarm is any caller who claims to be from Microsoft, some other large technology company or the IRS. Microsoft and the IRS, for example, will NEVER call you on the telephone to tell you there’s a problem with your computer or a tax return. Microsoft does all of its updates online through Microsoft update, and the IRS sends you a letter – by snail mail.

When it comes to the telephone, screen your calls. If the caller doesn’t leave a message, it’s just as well you didn’t talk them. If you get a call from someone who is NOT your IT consultant and who says he’s discovered a problem on your computer, hang up.

Also be careful of pop-up messages while you are surfing the web. Scammers can break through weak security measures on some websites or a hole in your security and insert a pop-up message. When you click a link on that message, they’ll make the screen look like your computer is infected. Then, they can offer you a repair or a service subscription while they gain access to your computer – allowing them to infect your computer or hold your data hostage.

Cybercrime is a fast-moving target. If you suspect something wrong, it might be best to shut down your computer and call us at 973-433-6676. We can discuss the best plan of action, which could a remote check of your system or an on-site visit. For non-emergencies, you can email us, too.