In 2017, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began to recognize the financial exploitation of seniors as a considerable threat to public health.
Today, more than 66 percent of Americans over the age of 65 use the internet. Of that group, over 70 percent go online every single day.
Unfortunately, according to the CDC’s research, roughly 5.4 percent of seniors still fall prey to online financial scams every year. While it’s true elderly users aren’t as technologically impaired as many people suggest, these alarming numbers make their age demographic the most frequent victims to hackers.
The Billions of Dollars Lost to Hackers and Scams
Scammers rake in billions of dollars by tricking people out of their money. In fact, according to a 2015 report by True Link Financial, elder financial abuse brings them $36 billion annually alone.
Furthermore, roughly $17 billion of these losses come from technically legal exploitation methods that specifically target elderly users.
Swindlers use countless different types of fraudulent ploys to rake in these huge sums. From employment scams that trick people into revealing valuable personal information, to dating website con-artists who fool or blackmail their victims into handing over thousands of dollars, thieves will use a variety of means to get what they want.
Furthermore, clever tricks aren’t the only online traps. Hacker-deployed malware can also attack a computer and steal valuable information from financial accounts, tax files, and more.
As a result, an estimated 954,000 seniors need to skip meals directly because of the financial abuse they’ve endured.
An Underreported Problem
On top of these issues, a lot of lost money never gets reported in the first place. It’s speculated older users most often stay silent when they’ve been conned to avoid embarrassment. This makes them attractive targets for scammers.
As such, most elderly financial exploitation goes undetected. Looking at London residents alone, an estimated 85 percent of online crimes go unreported.
Since only 15 percent of those scams are being reported, it’s safe to assume that the billions of dollars which are reported lost by seniors only represents a fraction of the total damages.
The Importance of a Defensive Mindset
Thankfully, there are many ways for users to protect their information online. However, taking precautionary steps will only help so much.
Above all, it’s important to use caution when interacting with unknown entities online, especially when you’re approached first. It also doesn’t hurt to brush up on the common scams people encounter, and how to defend yourself against them.