Taking Advantage of the Elderly

I've seen it twice in as many weeks. An elderly Internet user who was scammed out of money. Someone on a fixed income with limited computer knowledge in a world of increasing costs and health issues cheated out of money to make someone else a profit.

I don't normally see these things. Blocking pop-up ads, using a couple other browser plugins that help me ignore these issues, and using a Mac (or Linux) where anything that gets through looks out of place it's easy to spot these. Plus, I work in this industry so I know how to spot these. But, to many others this just isn't the case. They can and are taken advantage of.

An Example In Action

One of the stories I heard about seemed rather straight forward. She had a pop-up saying there was a problem and prompted her with a phone number to call. So, she called and they helped her install and run a package for a $150 fee to fix the problem.

The problem was that this was a pop-up ad that happened to look like an operating system window. And, when she was talking with them she assumed it was her Internet service provider she was talking with. But, it wasn't and she didn't even realize it until she looked at the receipt well after the fact.

In the end they installed some software on her computer she didn't need and it cost her $150. She was scammed. Do this enough times and you can make a pretty profit at the expense of others.

Oh, But Wait...

This is where the story gets more complicated. I had installed Chrome on her system and set it up to block these pop-ups and she was using it. So, how did she end up in wide open Internet Explorer? Not too long ago she took her computer into be repaired because of a hardware issue. While it was in the shop they switched her back to Internet Explorer for her browser.

This Is Hurting People We Care About

It's easy to not think about it if the problem isn't happening to me. I can block these scams. But, it doesn't mean this isn't happening to our neighbors, friends, parents, grandparents, and other family. People we care about are being easily and successfully taken advantage of.

What We Can Do About It

If we care about the well being of others we can put some time into helping them not be abused.

  1. We can put some time into thinking about it in regard to the people around us. How can we help them? I mean this in both a micro and macro capacity. With our ad blockers enabled it's easy to treat it as out of sight, out of mind.
  2. Talk about not getting scammed with the people we care about who aren't tech savvy. Especially elderly people. Be a resource for them.
  3. If we are visiting someone who could use it… take a few minutes to install something on their system to block these issues. Deal with the pain of firing up IE if we can install a package into it that will help.

When I realized that a few minutes of my time could stop someone I care about from being taken advantage of and that people were targeting them it was simple. I should help. It's easy to protect myself and forget about it. It's not all that hard to help protect the people around me, too.