Senior couple sitting on a sofa in front of a computer with smiles on their faces.

Online Safety Tips for Seniors

Internet safety should be a priority for anyone who goes online, especially given the rising number of scams. Many of these deceptive practices specifically target seniors, who can be more vulnerable to this type of fraud. Fortunately, with a little knowledge of the most common online scams and how they work, they can be avoided. Here are some simple online safety tips for seniors.

How Common Are Scams Targeting Seniors?

Scams targeting seniors are some of the most common. Scammers took nearly $1 billion from seniors in 2020. They did this primarily through the use of malware, medicare and health care fraud schemes, relationship scams and charity scams. Here’s how they work.


Malware is a portmanteau term for “malicious software.” These programs install themselves on a user’s computer without the user’s knowledge. Once the malware is installed, a hacker may be able to take control of the computer or gain access to the information saved therein.

What it might look like:

Malware often comes in the form of a suspicious email or link within an email. The email may even look as if it’s coming from a person or brand that you trust. 

How to avoid it:

Never click links in emails from people or businesses you do not recognize. If you do recognize the brand or person, be mindful of how professionally the email is presented. Are there errors in grammar or spelling? If it’s purportedly from an individual, are they asking you to do something that’s out of character for them? If you receive a suspicious looking email, delete it immediately. If it is from a brand prompting you to login to a website, visit that site directly and check your account there, instead of clicking on a link in an email. 

Medicare or Health Care Fraud

All United States citizens over the age of 65 are eligible for Medicare. For this reason, scammers have a large pool of potential targets. However, Medicare is not the only way scammers may try to target older adults. Perpetrators may pose as private health insurance providers, a health care provider or a medical device supplier.

What it might look like:

Scammers often contact seniors asking for personal or medical information, pretending to be a representative from an insurance agency or Medicare office. They then use this information to steal a person’s identity or file fraudulent insurance claims.

How to avoid it:

Protect your Medicare number and your personal medical information. If contacted by someone saying they are from a particular office, ask if you may call them back at a phone number that you have verified online as belonging to that agency. Be wary of providing your medical records to anyone other than trusted medical professionals whom you contact directly.

Relationship Scams

Relationship scams don’t just occur on dating apps. Services popular with older adults, like Facebook, can be used by scammers to mislead seniors and gain their trust. Once the scammer has a person’s trust, they begin to ask for money. Unfortunately, reports of romance scams have hit record highs.

What it might look like:

A scammer may make contact with a target through a dating site, smartphone app or through social media platforms like Facebook. Although the individual may seem real, chatting with you online or even over the phone for long periods of time, their profile will actually be fake. After they believe they have gained your trust, they will try to convince you to send them money in the form of cash deposits, gift cards or other means. Once they believe they have gotten all the assets they can from their mark, the scammer will disappear.  

How to avoid it:

Be suspicious of any online friends you have not met who ask for money. Common red flags of a scam include requests for wired money, reloadable cash cards or store gift cards, because these forms of payment are more difficult to trace.

Charity Scams

While many of us are looking to make the world a better place, some see this as an opportunity to commit fraud. From small fraudulent fundraisers to large fake charitable organizations, a charity scam can take many forms.

What it might look like:

An untrustworthy person may set up a fake fundraising website or solicit donations through social media or an official-sounding charity may contact you via email or even by phone asking for your support.

How to avoid it:

For small fundraisers, try to verify as much as you can about the cause before donating money. For large organizations, you can use a website like Charity Navigator to do background research on an organization.

Online Safety Tips for Seniors

The current scams targeting seniors mentioned here represent only a small sample of the possible methods scammers may use. However, the following online safety tips can help mitigate the risk of becoming the victim of a scam.

  • Keep your technology up to date. Computers, phones and other electronic devices require regular security updates to protect against ever-changing threats.
  • Do not open suspicious emails or click unknown links – including links sent to you via text message. Email senders may also pose as friends or family members, so be sure to verify every message you receive.
  • Be suspicious when asked for money or sensitive information. A healthy dose of skepticism can keep you from becoming the victim of a crime.
  • Recognize red flags in a conversation. Requests for payments by wire transfer or gift cards, threatening messages and suspicious looking messages are all signs of a potential scam.
  • Beware of fakery. Whether in the form of fake online profiles or individuals posing as official representatives of real organizations, understand that not everyone is who they say they are.
  • Never be embarrassed to speak up. Mistakes happen to everyone! If you realize that you’ve been scammed, report the fraud and tell friends or family members you trust as soon as possible. This will help others while also protecting you from further harm.

Find a Supportive Community at Abbey Delray South

You will always find an informative and supportive community at Abbey Delray South. Our team is dedicated to your health and safety – online and off. We often host informative talks of interest to older adults, including sharing tips about online safety and personal security. 

If you’re interested in learning more, contact us and consider scheduling a tour to see our exceptional Floridian community for yourself.