Over 55s issued fresh warning as fraudsters become ‘more sophisticated’ – how to stay safe

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There appears to be more scams to watch out for than ever, as criminals have sought to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic and capitalise on the confusion it has caused. A leading online security expert has warned older people to look out for phishing emails and other scams looking to catch them out.

According to research by McAfee, over a third (35 percent) of over 65s have experienced an email scam, compared to 23 percent of the wider population.

Kevin Brown at BT Security spoke exclusively to Express.co.uk and advised pensioners on the warning signs to look out for when trying to spot a scammer.

He said: “Although anyone can fall foul to online fraud, scammers often target elderly people who may be more vulnerable. This has only increased during the COVID-19 pandemic as cybercriminals have preyed on older internet users’ fear and insecurity during this challenging time.

“Getting online can make life easier and open up lots of opportunities for older people though, so the risk of scams shouldn’t deter them – they just need to be cautious. The most important thing when using the internet is knowing the different types of threats to look out for and what to do if you suspect a scam.

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“Getting online can make life easier and open up lots of opportunities for older people though, so the risk of scams shouldn’t deter them – they just need to be cautious. The most important thing when using the internet is knowing the different types of threats to look out for and what to do if you suspect a scam.

“Whilst there are a number of tactics out there, one of the most frequent methods used by scammers is phishing. Phishing involves fraudsters pretending to be a trustworthy person or organisation to trick you into giving away your personal information – whether that’s usernames, passwords or even financial details.

“For example, a phishing email might claim you have won a prize, been hacked, offer health-related guidance or pretend to be someone who needs your help. It will ask you to click a link and provide your personal details, which scammers could use to access your finances, other accounts or even commit identity theft.

“Be suspicious of any company that contacts you out of the blue and be wary if it sounds too good to be true. Sit back before you click and think ‘is that likely or even true?’ Check the sender address, as it’s always worth looking on a company’s website to compare if you’re unsure.

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“You can often also spot a scam email from typos and formatting errors too. Scams aren’t always easy to prevent but there are lots of things you can do to protect yourself. Make sure your computer has the latest antivirus software and look out for the padlock symbol in a website’s address before entering your payment details.

“If you do think you have been caught out by an online scam, report the incident to Action Fraud and if you suspect the scammer has your financial details, report it to your bank as soon as possible.”

Kevin Curran, IEEE senior member and professor of cybersecurity at Ulster University highlighted some of the traps that are currently out there, with phishing emails being a particular concern.

He said: “There are a number of dangers at hand when using the internet, but one of the main issues for older people is phishing emails. As emails become increasingly popular year-on-year, there are millions of cybercriminals who are actively targeting older people and tricking them in to clicking on spam links.

“As criminals become more sophisticated, mechanisms are struggling to block many of these phishing attacks. In addition, phishing emails can generate random characters and modify their format to evade spam filters, meaning older people are more likely to trust these.

“Fake websites are another danger. Many scammers are building fake websites which seem authentic but are there to capture sensitive personal or financial information. Websites which masquerade as government services such as passport or driving licence renewal are also created regularly.

“Visiting fake websites or clicking on links in emails can leave older people vulnerable to computer viruses or back door tools which take control of their devices.

“We also can’t forget phone scammers, who attempt to harm older or vulnerable people on a daily basis. They will often tell their victims that their computer has a virus, and they seek to install spying software as well as extorting people into paying for fake software.”

Having one’s credit card details stolen is another type of fraud to watch out for, as research from the cybersecurity experts at Malwarebytes revealed that the likelihood of having one’s credit card data stolen increased in line with age, with those aged 65+ more impacted than any other age group.

Incidents of attempted scams appear to be on the rise of late, as research from Opinium found that 79 percent of over 55s said they had been approached by a scammer in the last 12 months. This highlights the need to be able to spot scams quickly.

On the findings, Helen Morrissey, senior pensions and retirement analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown said: “As we get older, we’re more and more confident we can spot a scam, but one in four people aged 55 and over would still be convinced by a criminal claiming to offer guaranteed returns of 10 percent.

“This is particularly worrying because this age group is most likely to be targeted by pension scammers.”



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