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Hey, senior Internet surfers: Sharks are circling

Yes, the bad guys have followed you to Facebook and other fun places. Here, courtesy of SiteJabber, are the most common cons and tips to avoid getting bamboozled.

By Mitch Lipka Jun 7, 2013 1:28PM
Senior with Laptop © H-Gall, Vetta, Getty ImagesAs the number of seniors online has grown, so have the scams that target them. The folks at SiteJabber, an online community that reviews websites and flags problems, put together a list of the top scams they've seen that aim at older Web surfers.

SiteJabber co-founder Jeremy Gin said "that increasing numbers of scammers have begun to target this demographic online. However with a bit of education and caution -- from both the older adults and the rest of their families -- we remain optimistic that many of these scams can be avoided."

Here is what they found with some tips about how to avoid them:

1. Work-at-home scams
These scams aim at folks who are looking to pick up some work. Whether it's filling out surveys, clicking on ads, multi-level marketing or stuffing envelopes, most of these schemes are worthless and put victims at risk of identity theft.

Tip: "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is . . ."

2. Dating scams
More than 11 million senior citizens live alone, so it stands to reason many would be attracted to online communities where people can meet each other. Such territory, however, is ripe for scams.

Tips:
Research a site before signing up, don't send money to anyone you meet online (run away when they ask for cash to be sent by a money transfer service) and if you go to meet someone you know only online do it in a public place.

3. Lottery/sweepstakes scams
Congratulations, you've won a huge prize. Or so it might seem. The most likely scenario is you're being targeted to make a payment with the idea you can collect or your personal information is being harvested.

Tips: Don't give out your personal information, and don't pay to win.
4. Bogus online pharmacies
Fake online pharmacies are always looking for new customers. Some pretend to be from Canada, where many Americans have gone to get their medications. But, even when some of these outfits do actually send something, it could be expired, contaminated or not even medication at all.

Tip:
Do business with known pharmacies.

5. Facebook scams
With so many seniors now on Facebook -- a study found that 30% are on the social networking site -- they're also prime targets for the myriad scams that can be found there. Facebook is home for many phishing scams -- where criminals dupe you into giving up personal information -- as well as other schemes that can leave your computer infected.

Tips:
Don't click on links to sites that are not well known, even if people you know are -- or seem to be -- recommending you do so. Not everyone recognizes a scam, and just because a friend appears to be making the recommendation doesn't mean he or she really is.

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11Comments
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The article shows why I do not have a Twitter, Facebook or any other type of social networking site.   They are nothing more than wells where you put in all your personal information so someone else can dip it out with a pail.  
Jun 7, 2013 2:06PM
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Since I have a natural distrust of everyone and everything, it shouldn't be an issue for me.
Jun 10, 2013 1:18PM
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I have a Facebook account mainly because it's required on some comment boards and to keep in touch with some friends and relatives who live on Facebook.  But I associate it with absolutely nothing financial.
Last week Facebook notified me someone in another state tried, unsuccessfully, to log in to my Facebook account and requested that I change my password.  It was probably an accident but I'm keeping close check on all my accounts while relieved that there's nothing on Facebook that would hurt me financially.

Jun 13, 2013 8:41PM
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Same here, I don't enter Face Book or any of those types--to me it is a Problem going somewhere to happen, and it has already with many.
Jun 13, 2013 10:56PM
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Kids Wish Network (2.5%)
Cancer Fund of America (0.9%)
Children's Wish Foundation International (10.8%)
American Breast Cancer Foundation (5.3%)
Firefighters Charitable Foundation (8.4%)
Breast Cancer Relief Foundation (2.2%)
International Union of Police Associations (0.5%)
National Veterans Service Fund (7.8%)
American Association of State Troopers (8.6%)
Children's Cancer Fund of America (5.3%)

I've made a note of these... Are there any more that come to mind?

Jun 14, 2013 12:35AM
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As a 66 year old "boomer", I am offended by the tone of the article that paints seniors as a bunch of doddering old halfwits. It was obviously written by a snot nosed 20 something wannabe journalist.
Jun 14, 2013 11:56AM
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This has nothing to do with old people, and everything to do with stupid people.   It does not matter hold old someone is, if they are stupid, they will be taken advantage of.

My mother and mother in law are both very bright people who would never be taken advantage of.  In fact I chat with them on a regular basis about how many people try to rip them off.  They always get shut down by them quite quickly.
Jun 14, 2013 2:58AM
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Everyone should BEWARE of OVERLY FRIENDLY PEOPLE both male and female. Phone calls , internet ads, dating services, get rich quick ads, stuffing envelopes scams, are all CONFIDENCE games designed to STEAL your money. Its best to dress in well worn clothing and drive a dirty older car that makes you look like you are poor. If you look like you have nothing thats good, the CON ARTISTS will choose to CON someone else. Wear old beat up shoes, an old well used coat or jacket, pull out coupons to use at fast food joints. Never display any cash. Never make change for anyone and never give the time to anyone you do not know personally (CON ARTISTS use this trick to get you to take your eyes off them so they can STEAL YOUR PURSE or WORSE). If unsure about responding SPEAK with an ACCENT ( I DO NOT SPEAK ENGLISH). Answer COLD CALLING telephone calls in a foreign language ( SAY NO COMPRENDO ANGLESE).  Then hang up.
Jun 11, 2013 12:10PM
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There is no reason for seniors who are beginner Internet users to be afraid of using online stores, dating sites, or Facebook.

 

These services provide great benefits – the joy of keeping in touch with friends and family, the opportunity to save time and money, the power of knowledge about products and health. Staying active and social online helps seniors more connected, is a great mental stimulation, and reduces the risk of dementia.

 

A combination of tips on how to avoid scams and specialized safe tools work well to protect seniors from scam.

 

Antivirus and firewall are a must to prevent technical scam.

Tools exist to protect seniors from psychological scam such as “Lottery scam” or “Facebook scam”.

 

For example, any email client for seniors with a whitelist ensures that seniors receive their messages only from known contacts. Facebook app for seniors with Safe Mode, such as EasyFamily Social, prevents seniors from disclosing sensitive information.  

 

There is also an integrated app for seniors that provides a safe online environment, including easy and safe email, Facebook, and browsing – EasyFamily AppSuite. The app is available at for iPad, Android tablets and Windows computers.

 

Printed safety guide, safe apps, and proper education on scam risks will make a great start for a tech-shy beginner grandma in her online journey. 

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