AARP recently released the results of a survey of adults age 18 and older titled Caught in the Scammer’s Net. They were researching which individuals are more likely to become a victim of Internet Fraud. If you are a regular reader of this column, you know how much I emphasize the dangers of answering your phone. The same caution applies to dealing with email and the Internet. (http://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2014/internet-fraud-victimization-attitudes-behavior-washington.html)
Unsolicited emails and pop up offers put you at great risk. The Internet is how scammer collect information on individuals. And often times, it is ourselves who provide that information by clicking on items or responding to people and offers from strangers.
While this survey did not specifically indentify older adults as being the most vulnerable to Internet scams, the survey did identify 15 particular behaviors, life experiences, and knowledge attributes that may make a person more vulnerable to online fraud. Look closely at these and see if you or your friends and family match the profile of a potential Internet fraud victim.
• Clicking on pop-ups
• Opening email from unknown sources
• Selling products on online auction sites
• Signing up for free limited time trial offers
• Downloading apps
• Purchasing through an online payment transfer site
• Visiting a website that required them to read a terms of agreement statement
• Being impulsive
• Feeling isolated/lonely
• Loss of a job
• Negative change in financial status
• Being concerned about debt
• Being unaware that banks do not send emails to their customers asking them to click on a link to verify personal information
Based on its survey, AARP estimates that there are 34 million Internet users who are at high risk of becoming victims. Do not be one of them. Exercise caution when online. Close pop up windows when they appear. Be suspicious of emails from unknown individuals. Do not click on any links provided to you in an email. Most importantly, check before doing business with anyone. Feel free to call me at 713-341-6184 with any questions about a website or a company.