Senior citizens the number one target by scammers: How to stay safe

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Augusta, GA (WJBF)- Businesses are the number one target of hackers, but what is the number one group of individuals they target?

Many cyber criminals focus on people aged 60 and older to hack or run scams on. They tend to be less tech savvy and less skeptical of suspicious cyber activity.

Steve Foster Special Agent in Charge of the GBI Cyber Crime Center said cyber criminals will hack someone’s Facebook account, pretend to be them, and contact family and friends asking for money or gift cards.

One of the most popular scams are romance scams which target older people who usually have lost a spouse. Foster said widows and widowers are lonely and cyber criminals are quick to exploit that.

He said these scams are so common and work so well that some victims have lost upwards of six figures. Most take place on Facebook where the criminal will duplicate a real person’s account, usually someone in the military, and reach out to unsuspecting targets.

“And it’s very very common to see these that originate from Facebook. So someone that is in their 60’s or 70’s may receive a friend request, an introductory message from someone that they don’t know. And they start the online conversation with this person who they think is someone that they’re not,” explained Foster.

He also explains that since most of these exchanges happen overseas and deal in cash instead of cryptocurrency, they are almost impossible to track. The victims lose their money and don’t get it back.

“We’ve had situations where our elderly victims are sending, as much as six figures in cash to these people overseas,” said Foster. “And it’s a very, very difficult crime to investigate because of the circumstances around those. And it is a group that we are very concerned about.”

Foster said if you suspect a family member has been targeted, don’t be afraid to step in. It may cause discord, but in the end you are protecting your loved one.

There are tips to help you educate your older relatives to keep them safe from these scams.

  • Never give out credit or debit card or any other financial information to someone over the phone or internet unless you are sure the person on the other end can be trusted.
  • Be skeptical of offers that seem too good to be true. They usually are.
  • Don’t click on links you are not familiar with. If you have doubts, type the address in the web browser, do not copy and paste.
  • And finally use different, strong passwords for each website and device that you use.

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