In today’s digital age, crime has taken many new forms. One of its most prevalent manifestations is cybercrime, an underworld that is constantly evolving, using innovative and sophisticated methods, including phishing, smishing, and artificial intelligence fraud. Unfortunately, one group has been particularly vulnerable to these attacks – seniors.
Phishing and Smishing
Phishing, one of the most commonly known cyber fraud techniques, consists of fraudulent emails masquerading as sent by reputable companies in order to trick individuals into divulging personal information such as passwords and credit card numbers. In addition, Smishing which is the lesser known related form of Phishing has the same goal but uses text messages as it may portray more trust in being a more traditional form of communication.
Phishing and Smishing both attempt to trick the targeted individual into clicking a link, providing personal information or downloading malicious content onto their smartphone, tablet, or computer. These emails and texts often are very good copies of a legitimate source which can be confusing. However, there are steps you can take in identifying these to ensure the legitimacy. I recommend referring to the Federal Trade Commissions site here: How to Recognize and Avoid Phishing Scam.
Alongside smishing and phishing, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has emerged as another avenue for fraud. Cybercriminals can now use AI to clone voices, mimic emails, and even create life-like videos. This is as sophisticated and as dangerous as it can get. Seniors, who are generally trusting and can find it difficult distinguishing real from synthetic media, end up more susceptible to this next-gen level of deceit.
However daunting, the rise of cybercrime does not have to leave anyone feeling helpless. In the face of these threats, education, awareness, and caution are the most powerful weapons. As an individual, or someone with elderly family members, it is important to learn the common signs of phishing, smishing, and AI fraud attacks.
Be Alert, Be Vigilant
- Always approach unsolicited contact with skepticism. Be wary of emails, text messages, or phone calls from unknown sources.
- Always double-check sender names, email addresses, and URLs embedded in the email.
- In a phone call or text, make sure conversations are not being led towards revealing personal information.
- Refrain from providing your login credentials to anyone even if they claim to be from the company who owns those credentials as almost all companies will never ask for this information.
In the case of any doubts whatsoever, it’s always safer to verify independently by contacting the organization directly, or by seeking advice from family or friends before providing personal information. On top of that, keeping software and devices up-to-date with the latest security features and updates is another layer of protection for everyone.
While digital advancement brings many advantages, it also inadvertently exposes individuals to higher risks of cybercrimes. This is particularly true for seniors, given their limited exposure to and understanding of the digital world. However, with the right knowledge and precautions, seniors and their caretakers can actively avoid these risks and continue to benefit from the digital world safely.