How senior citizens can keep their money safe from online financial fraud and scams

Written by Rajeev Kumar

Seniors are commonly taken advantage of based on their trust in others. Common ways this happens is with fraudulent emails.

Senior citizens are extremely vulnerable to online fraud. As the number of online financial crimes is increasing, it has become important for elderly citizens to proactively manage their online activities and passwords. GetSetUp, a platform for older adults, recently partnered with ICICI Prudential AMC to launch financial literacy classes for elder adults to equip them with the necessary tools to keep their money secure digitally. In an email interaction with FE PF Desk, Deval Delivala, co-founder and senior vice-president of GetSetUp, shared some insights on how senior citizens are vulnerable to financial fraud and what should they do to keep their money safe. Edited Excerpts:

How vulnerable are senior citizens to financial fraud in India?

An estimated $36 billion is lost in scams and fraud on the elderly each year in India. This is a major loss for the victim of such fraud and their families. According to the Microsoft 2021 Global Tech Support Scam Research report, consumers in India experienced a fairly high rate of online fraud of 69% in 2021.

With the rapid proliferation of digital enablement of services such as online payments, banking and shopping, the vulnerability of the elderly population has increased, opening up a need gap for building awareness of personal data protection and cybersecurity, especially pertaining to financial fraud.

What are the most common types of financial fraud that target senior citizens?

Seniors are commonly taken advantage of based on their trust in others. Commonly this happens with fraudulent emails that look similar to a safe site the person uses normally, perhaps their bank or a place they regularly buy products. Once the person clicks on the link they end up sharing their information, personal data, and sometimes their password in a place that looks similar to where they normally do, only it won’t work because it’s fake. Instead, someone has taken that information and is now accessing the real site and often stealing money or making purchases against the owner’s will.

Fraudsters aren’t just regulated behind the screen. Some of these fake emails have phone numbers where a real person will assist you when your data won’t work on the link. Then a person calls in and asks to gain control of the laptop through view sharing (to steal personal data). Initially, they sound very sweet and like they are trying to help the caller. But the second you start questioning why they don’t have access to your account information if they are from support, and they should, then sometimes they get hostile and even hang up on you. These are some of the most complicated as often the person comes off as very sweet. Then they get angry because that sometimes scares people into giving information. Seniors shouldn’t let it scare them.

What should senior citizens do to keep their money safe at all times?

It’s important to keep your money in reputable financial institutions to keep it safe. When you set up new accounts with financial institutions, always ask them how you can best access your money both online and offline. Ask them about their safety measures and protections so you know what to expect. Make sure you familiarize yourself with their virtual products with a representative from the institution or someone you trust right away even if you don’t need access. This will help you prevent fraud in the future.

How can senior citizens spot financial fraud?

Financial fraud isn’t always easy to spot, every day fraudsters get more creative and even more savvy in hiding. It’s important if you have doubts to ask someone you trust before you give away information. Plus there are steps you can take to help keep yourself secure. Two-step authentication and OTP (one-time passwords) offer an additional level of security that helps protect your finances. This means you need to confirm a password emailed or texted to you or your login in a secondary way to make sure you are you and someone didn’t just get ahold of your information. This helps prevent someone from as easily accessing your finances if they do figure out your password. Also, not sharing your OTP with anyone on the phone is another simple rule to follow.

Additionally, don’t install random apps on your phone. Sometimes apps and other links will lead you to an “offer” which is always too good to be true. You may even receive messages from legitimate-looking sources saying it is your electricity bill or your phone bill. Do not click on any link that comes in your SMS. When setting up new apps on your phone, always check what data they have access to and set up your phone to protect the data.

Also, it’s important to be wary of fake news and untrustworthy messages. Financial institutions will not send you messages via text or Whatsapp asking for your personal information like your password. This information should only be given on their official site. Pay attention to emails as well so that the formatting and sender are the same as where your financial information normally comes from. Any email that looks different or comes from a different sender should be considered suspicious.

There are so many passwords to remember. How can senior citizens manage their passwords?

There are a number of great password tools that help you organize your passwords, and keep them from being as easily accessible. LastPass, 1Password, Roboform, and Dashlane are considered some of the best password managers out today. These are sites where you remember one password and the site automatically generates and stores passwords for other sites so you can keep your overall online security at its highest standards.

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