4 Ways the Elderly can get Scammed Online

I don’t know if is all the Grace and Frankie I have been watching on Netflix or the fact that my own parents are getting on in years but this is a topic I hear about all the time. I have also helped several elderly computer users with this problem. This is something you have been pondering in midlife. We worry about our kids but we also really worry about our parents!

We see Internet scams all the time. Through email, online and in social media. Sometimes we get caught by these scams. Imagine a senior in the same situation. Research shows seniors that are online (59%) by age 74, usage starts to drop. Meaning they eventually stop using the Internet. It could be physical or mental barriers. It is at this point that seniors seem to be the perfect storm for scammers.

Their usage drops off but it doesn’t happen overnight. The 1/3 of seniors age 85 and older suffer from some type of Dementia, impairing their cognitive ability making them perfect targets for scammers

I have classified most major scams into 4 different types. They are listed below:

  1. Government Scams
  2. Banking Scams
  3. Get Rich Quick Scams (Nigerian, Lottery)
  4. Scareware

When you learn to spot these types of scams, if you’re elderly Parent is not sure, they can at least start the conversation with you and you can help them!

Government Scams

These scams take a few forms. Usually they tell you that there was some mix up with your taxes. They usually entice you by saying a refund is waiting and they just need you social security number to verify the refund. Why would the government be asking for your social security number?? Shouldn’t they already have it? It sounds like an Identity theft scam to me. For starters, the government never emails you. It is usually by postal mail. If you ever correspond with the government electronically you start the correspondence, not them.

Example of a government scam:

Banking Scams

Banking Scams are very similar to government scams. They are different in that they try to get information from you by telling you your account will be closed due inactivity, an errant charge was found or for security measures they need to “verify” your account information including your password. DO NOT fall for it. I have seen scams that come from every major bank. It is frustrating to say the least. You know how I know it is a scam? I get emails from banks I do not even bank at asking to verify my account info! I occasionally get one from a bank I do bank at but I know better!

Example of a Banking Scam:

Get Rich Quick Scams

These are my favorite. Not because of the poor way they are written but because when I see what they are trying to prey on it just boggles my mind. The Nigerian scam is very old. It started even before email became very prevalent in the mid-90’s. It is actually called the 419 scam . It is the section of the Nigerian criminal code that outlaws fraud. It starts with the same premise: A member from a well-to-do family has had a higher up relative either murdered or incarcerated and their vast fortune has been stolen by the government. It is usually in a huge some in the hundreds of million dollars. If you could only help them by wiring some money to help pay legal costs, bribe officials, etc your cut of the money would be huge. It is never a small cut like 5-10% it usually something like 60%. They do this on purpose to entice you to give them some money. You generally think it is a small price “They only want $1000 from me and they are going to give me $100 million!”. As I said before, if it sounds to good to be true, it is. The thing is they will start asking you for more money due the “problems” they have run into and you never get paid back, EVER.

Example of a Nigerian Scam:

Lottery Scam

My question is how can you win a lottery you don’t even enter? Well allegedly you can I get inundated with this scam everyday. It usually starts out with you getting an email stating your name or email has been picked at random to win a huge some of money. They just need you to register your information to collect the winnings. I am always confused by the address of the lottery office. It is somewhere in some far flung place I have never been to. That is usually when the red flag goes up. How did they get my information??? Am I even eligible to win money from that country?? You may even be asked to pay a fee to process your registration before you can collect your “winnings”. Talk about adding insult to injury!

Example of a Lottery Scam:


Scareware doesn’t come in the form of email scams but they will pop up on your screen while you are surfing the Internet. The problem is, you can be surfing for anything and they pop up. It used to be only if you were surfing for things like, gambling or warez (illegal software) that you would be targeted but not anymore. It can be anything. Here are two examples of scareware I have been asked to get rid of:

RCMP Scareware Scam

This is a scam that claims the RCMP has been monitoring your computer activity and have found you distributing pornographic contents and you will be arrested. It other countries it might be a CIA scam or the like. It falls apart for this very reason: It will let you out of the charge if you pay a “fee”. For starters, if you were allegedly engaging in criminal activity, the police would not throw a pop-up window on your computer screen. They would come to your house with a warrant for your arrest and confiscate your computer. Also, they definitely wouldn’t take a bribe to look the other way!!

Virus Scareware
This can come in two forms:

  1. An Internet pop window.
  2. Software installed on your computer when you agreed to install another piece of software.

Internet pop up window

This will happen sometimes when you are surfing the Internet. The good news is it is just a pop up, nothing more. A lot of times they will have sound like a voice of a human telling you to call the number on the screen with sirens. DON’T. It is just a pop-up. All you have to do is turn your sound down so you can think and then hit CTRL-Alt-Del on your keyboard (CMD-Option-Esc if you own a Mac), find the process that is your Internet Browser (common browsers are Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Safari and Google Chrome) and hit “End Task” or “Force Quit” on a Mac. When you restart your browser it may ask you to restore your browsing session. Say No or you will go right back to the situation you were trying to get rid of in the first place. As an added safety measure, clear your temporary Internet files (or cache).

To do this, just Google “clear temporary internet files ” and you will get instructions on how to do so.

Internet Pop up Window Virus Scam Example

Software Inadvertently Installed on your Computer

You may have installed a piece of software that enables you to do something but you had to agree to install a million other pieces of software to get it. A lot of times the software you were trying to install is fake and just a ploy to get you to agree to install a ton of malware on your computer. After you installed all the software (a lot of times unknowingly) you will get an alert on your screen and an icon on the bottom left of your screen claiming that that your computer is teeming with malware. However, the software that says this is not going to clean your computer. It is a rouse. Unfortunately at this point, it is already too late, you will have to clean the computer. Steps on doing so are varies a bit and is out of scope for this eBook. These are the general steps:

  1. Restart your computer in safe mode
  2. Uninstall all offending programs
  3. Scan for viruses and Malware .
  4. Clean up the registry (If on a Windows computer).
    You can Google exact steps on how to clean the specific malware you have on your computer but you may be better off taking the computer to a trusted computer professional to clean it.
    I have another guide located on http://www.cayville.ca/computer-repair-services/ . It is called How to clean your malware infected computer, which can also help. I also have this blog blog post as a free eBook download and a YouTube video of it also located at that link.

Example of Anti-Virus Pop up Scam

Now this a lot of information to take in for even an adult, who has been around technology, imagine what it would be for a senior! This information will help them to detect possible scams and stop them in their tracks! You will be thankful. I know I have helped a number of seniors over the years to halt the scammers in their tracks. This information can help you do the same.


There are a lot of scams out there but they pretty much take the same shape:

  1. They try to scare you into action
  2. They try to lure you with fake promises of easy money.

They are very deceptive and they hope their tactics work on the most vulnerable, your elderly Parent’s. Armed with these simple tools, you can thwart these attempts.

Thanks and Good Luck!
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