Dear Donna,

My father is in his late seventies and has recently developed mobility problems. He’s at home alone a lot, but luckily he has the internet. He loves being online, emailing, sharing photos, and reading about politics.

He and his old friends, most of whom live outside of the state of Michigan now, communicate regularly online. They share links, forward emails, and suggest videos to one another. Most have also joined Facebook.

All this is great for him, but I worry that he’s going to click on a link and end up downloading a virus. Or worse, what if he receives one of those scam emails that trick people in to revealing personal information?

How can I make sure my dad is safe when he’s online?

I don’t want to offend his intelligence but at the same time, I’m not sure he’s aware of all the ways scammers are targeting seniors these days. How do I start a conversation that won’t offend him?


Roxanne in Dearborn

Learn More about Cyber Crime and Seniors

Dear Roxanne,

Thank you for your question. You’re right! Much of today’s cyber crime is aimed at older Americans. According to the FBI’s website, seniors are targeted for many reasons. Scammers of all kinds—not just the online type—see seniors as more trusting and less suspicious.

But that’s not the only reason scammers think older adults make good targets.

Why Scammers Target Seniors

According to the FBI, seniors are targeted because:

  • Scammers think seniors are too polite to say “no” or to hang up the phone or let an email go unanswered
  • Seniors are more likely to have something worth stealing: retirement money and a mortgage-free home
  • Older adults are also more likely to have good credit
  • Scammers prefer victims who don’t report fraud to the authorities and embarrassed seniors often fit the bill
  • Crooks believe the aging stereotypes and think seniors may not make good witnesses because of memory loss
  • Older Americans are very susceptible to products promising certain benefits, such as improved memory, anti-cancer, and younger skin to name a few

You likely need to have a discussion with your father about online safety. Point out these facts to him, mentioning that even though he may be wise in many ways, the internet is new territory for most people. Scammers are inventive and everyone gets fooled occasionally.

Crooks sometimes pose as government officials and contact people online to steal their personal information. Analysis of the victims of these scams shows that seniors are more susceptible to these types of cons than younger generations. If you want to steer the conversation to a more specific topic, this might be a good place to start.

I hope this advice was helpful, Roxanne! Good luck helping your father stay safe online.


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