Cyber Security Today: The Biggest Internet Threats Targeting Older Adults

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Last Updated on October 18, 2023

The FBI estimates that older adults lose more than $3 billion in financial scams every year. With 10,000 people turning 65 every day in the U.S., it should come as no surprise that scammers are getting more aggressive in attempts to rob older adults of their hard-earned money, with a reported 74% increase in total annual losses from cybercrime against seniors. 

One tech company has stepped forward with a solution to these cyberattacks. Growing Bolder went one-on-one with Earl Chen, the Chief Technology and Data Officer for GrandPad, an organization that created a tablet specifically designed for older adults to get online in a safe and secure fashion. Chen revealed the top scams facing seniors, the upcoming battle against the malicious use of artificial intelligence, and how the GrandPad tablet can protect from these threats. 

Biggest Scams Targeting Older Adults 

1. Technical Support Scams 

Tech support fraud is the most reported fraud among victims over 60, totaling over $238 million in annual losses. 

“They’ll pop up on your messages or computer saying your machine’s been infected or your bank account has been taken over to get you to call a number,” Chen explained. “They get you on the phone to give them access to your bank account or even give them access to your whole computer.” 

2. Imposter Scams 

“They’ll pretend to be a family member, and they’ll pretend to be in trouble, such as ‘Oh, I’ve been arrested, I need money for bail,’” Chen continued. “Creating this artificial emergency creates urgency and that need to act.” 

One of the most common imposter scams involves fraudulent romances, pulling on the heartstrings of older adults in a fake relationship. More than 3,000 seniors lost more than $100,000 from “sweetheart scams” in a single year, according to the latest FBI data

3. Lottery & Sweepstakes Scams 

“They’ll say you’ve won the lottery, and all you need to do is pay this amount, and we will send you the prize,” said Chen. “Or during the holiday season, grandpa wants to get the newest toy for his grandson, and it’s impossible to get, but guess what? This scammer has it, and if you pay, they’ll send it to you, but of course it never arrives, and you’re out your money.” 

A Tablet Designed To Protect Seniors From Scammers 

The only sure way to avoid becoming a victim of these increasingly sophisticated criminals is to prevent them from contacting you in the first place. Standard technology, such as smartphones and computers, leaves the user at risk of these common scams. Chen and the GrandPad team created a solution to protect against these threats. 

The GrandPad tablet features a safe and secure private family network managed by a family member. This means only pre-approved phone numbers and emails can contact the GrandPad user, creating what they call a “walled garden.” 

“What we’ve done is created a circle of trust. So just the people within the senior’s circle of trust are able to access our platform: your friends, your family, and even caregivers,” Chen said. 

“One thing that we saw over and over were seniors who were afraid to answer the phone, because they think it’s going to be a scammer. But on the GrandPad, grandma knows it’s going to be somebody she’s familiar with. She’ll see the person’s picture pop up with the call, and so she’ll be happy to answer.” 

The GrandPad not only is perfect for video calls and emails, but also allows the user to safely share and comment on family photos and play games like checkers remotely with family members. The internet app on the tablet is customizable by the family administrator, who can set a list of approved websites for the user to access. 

GrandPad customers are never alone, because their team is always just one tap away with 24/7/365 support. Each customer is paired with their own member experience agent who can tackle any issues with patience and empathy. 

An Upcoming Battle With Artificial Intelligence
 

The world has only begun to scratch the surface of the feats that can and will be accomplished by rapidly developing artificial intelligence (AI). ChatGPT has taken the world by storm, advanced robotics continue to be integrated in society, and on a lighter note, voice imitation videos are garnering millions of views and laughs on social media.   

But like everything else, where a technology exists, there will be those who seek to use it maliciously. 

“[AI] is a big challenge. In normal cases, people can resist the scam. They’ll think, ‘Oh that doesn’t quite sound like Susie.’ Your alarms will be raised and you’ll hang up the phone. But with AI, it only takes 10 seconds of somebody’s social media video for the AI to clone their voice. And now you have a very realistic tool that sounds just like Susie, so it’s much harder to detect. It is a really big concern,” Chen said. 

It isn’t all doom and gloom, however. Chen is confident that GrandPad’s private family network is up to the task of protecting the user from emerging threats, while also giving them the gift of much-needed social connection. 
 

“Every day I get to hear these wonderful testimonials from real users about how GrandPad is able to change their life,” Chen said. “I’ve never cried so many happy tears, hearing really touching stories about how a grandma was able to see her grandchildren who she hasn’t seen because of the pandemic or a dad was able to see the birth, be there in the room in the hospital, virtually, of his first grandson. Even how a family can get together and chat over coffee because of the GrandPad.” 

To learn more, attend a free product demo by  registering at GrandPad.net. 

This article is featured in the Fall 2023 issue of The Growing Bolder Digital Digest.

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