According to a newly-published report by the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), the elderly are more at risk from falling victim to online fraud and internet scammers than ever before.
In the IC3’s Elder Fraud Report, the FBI detailed that approximately 28% of all fraud losses are sustained by victims who are over 60 years old – with losses totalling approaching US $1 billion.
Worryingly, that figure represents a rise of around $300 million compared to losses reported by seniors in 2019.
According to the FBI, while the average loss per victim was US $9,175, some 1,921 victims aged sixty and above lost more than US $100,000 to online scammers.
Figures released in the report show that not only were the over-60s most likely to become victims of all the age brackets surveyed, but also their total losses were the greatest.
Older adults, the study found, were often defrauded as a result of romance scams, tech support fraud, and investment scams. In addition, data suggests that hundreds of millions of dollars have been lost by companies through business email compromise attacks, facilitated unwittingly by staff aged over 60 years old.
It would be unfair and incorrect to characterise these attacks as succeeding simply because it was a more elderly person has been unlucky enough to fall victim. After all, a romance scam or email account compromise attack doesn’t discriminate between its targets based upon their age.
However, it’s possible that a victim’s age may play a factor in making them vulnerable to some scams – such as romance scams – especially if they have suffered a bereavement.
Furthermore, many of us with elderly loved ones may have found out the hard way that they can be naturally more trusting, compared to those of us who have spent a greater proportion of our lives guarding against internet scammers.
It’s also worth considering the impact that the global pandemic has had.
As the IC3 report explains, many elderly people may have found themselves shopping online for the first time due to Coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
“Elderly victims filed over 14,000 non-payment/non-delivery complaints experiencing losses over $40 million in 2020, making non-delivery of products the second most reported fraud among the elderly.”
In addition, many over-60s may have found themselves joining social networking sites for the first time in an attempt to stay in contact with friends and loved ones that they were not able to meet in person. As a result, they may have been easy pickings for online scammers posting fake adverts or promoting counterfeit products.
In some cases, attacks have taken a particularly dark and sinister nature with victims receiving threatening emails informing them (falsely) that they have been infected with COVID-19, or threatening to infect them with the virus, unless a cryptocurrency payment was made.
The onus lies on all of us to not assume that older members of our families, elderly friends and neighbours, are as clued up as we might be about online threats. We need to do our part to offer sensible advice and guidance to others to ensure that they do not become a soft target for online fraudsters.