Staying safe online

As we open up to digital influences, we also leave ourselves vulnerable to another avenue of attack, and though technology has many fantastic qualities, it also leaves some of the most vulnerable in our community in a position of unsafety.

There have been scams that concentrate on the elderly and less able for years, however as they now approach from an alternative angle, the internet, it leaves us with another area left unprotected. Though many people are aware of the junk mail to lure in unsuspecting victims, or the cold callers with colder intentions, staying safe online can be more difficult, especially if somebody is not as confident on computers.

How to stay safe in your home online

Scammers may know how to take advantage of people’s lack of technological experience, but others are quick to warn against these dangers Currently the internet dating scene is causing some strife among the older generation as many people are being taken in or ‘catfished’ by those pretending to be someone else. Countless incidents have seen people parting with thousands of pounds to satisfy their online love, with no real proof of who they really are.

Email scams are the most common and come under many different guises. Phishing scams imitate well-known and well respected companies such as Amazon and HRMC, as well as banks, and inform you that your account has been compromised. Having relayed this information, they ask you to follow the link “helpfully” provided, and enter all your details to verify your account. The reality is the link takes you to a fake website where they record your details to hack into your account. If you are truly in doubt over the security of your account, contact the company through their website homepage, or call them directly. Do not use any of the details on the suspicious email.

Another form of a phishing email is the copycat website, this is the website the email would have sent you to if you followed the link, however you can also stumble across it in other ways. The best way to tell if a website is an imitation, is to check the URL, if it does not match the company it is claiming to be, it is almost certainly not authentic.

Other emails may urge you to follow a link or open an attachment, which unfortunately is often a virus. Once on your computer, these viruses can do many clever things, including scanning all your personal data and relaying it to a third party.  Ensuring your antivirus software is up to date is key to staying safe online, and avoiding emails from people you do not know will also help to protect you.

Which? has made a helpful resource which covers how to stay safe online for those most at risk. If are concerned for someone who may be at risk, checking their email inbox, unsubscribing them from mailing lists, or in extreme cases setting them up a new email address may be the best course of action.

On the phone

Staying safe on the phone

Though less and less people still have home phones, the highest percentage remains with the older community. As most home telephone numbers are readily available (except those made ex directory) it is an easy way for fraudsters to dupe unsuspecting people. A popular scam that is currently causing the local police some difficulties is brisk sounding officials claiming they are from a bank. This authoritative sounding person will inform you that your card’s security is under question and tell you someone will visit to exchange it for a safer one along with your pin. Whether there is a person to collect it or a courier, this is a scam as no bank would ask you for personal details (such as a pin) over the phone, nor ask you to relinquish your card.

Avon and Somerset Constabulary are fighting back against phone fraud with their new campaign ‘It’s OK to say no’. By raising awareness of such scams they hope to stop them being so effective, especially against vulnerable members of the community. Detective Sargent Marc Milliner has some sage words of advice: “‘Scammers are devious and prey on the vulnerable to commit fraud. It’s vital that we get the message across to older people that if approached on the doorstep, by mail, online or over the phone, then it’s ok to say no. Never feel pressured, allow yourself time to think. If they really are who they say they are then they will be happy to wait to be checked out.”

By post

Scam mail

Though you can protect yourself online, or hang up a phone, your address is a more permanent aspect of your life and not so easily hidden. Scam companies hide behind legitimate British addresses and promise large cash prizes if you can simply place an order. Though several orders later, the promise of prizes continues but no actual monies materialise. Think Jessica is a site that is looking to stop these scams and raise awareness not only of their fraudulent nature but also the impact this can have on those who are elderly or vulnerable. Think Jessica was set up by someone who lost a parent to such scammers and is determined to see the issue of fraudulent post dealt with.

Door to door

The door to door scams are not only the most physically threatening, but also leave those with mobility issues, such as people with stairlifts or mobility scooters, in danger of harm. Close-knit communities with neighbourhood watch schemes do not struggle as much, but those who live in rural and isolated conditions, or lack a social network, could be at risk.

North Yorkshire Police have made a helpful guide to avoiding letting in unwanted callers and dodging scams from pretending officials. If you live close to someone elderly, vulnerable or with mobility issues, making them aware of the dangers of the door to door scams is essential, as well as leaving a contact number should they feel unsure or unsafe about those who have come to their door?

Image credits: Intel Free Press, Avon and Somerset Constabulary, Judith E BellWest Midlands Police

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