Common Phishing Attacks Targeting Older People

by Carter Toni

While all age groups are vulnerable to cyber attacks, older people are a bit more exposed. Many older people may have their valuable and sensitive information easily accessible, making them targets.

For one, many elderly arrived quite a bit late on technology; human beings are naturally resistant to change, and the older you are, the harder it is to embrace a new lifestyle and daily routine.

More so, the elderly are quite unaware of the realm of cyber attacks: consumers who said they were 60 and older filed 318,850 fraud reports with reported losses of more than $440 million out of the total of $1.8 billion. These numbers alone are a green for cybercriminals to hunt for more, putting many more elderly at a bigger risk of cyber fraud than any other age group.

However, with some awareness about the different types of cybercrimes, older people can avoid becoming victims.

Common Types of Cybercrime Targeting Older People

Email Phishing

Email phishing simply involves criminals registering a fake domain and sending tons of generic emails that masquerade as genuine organizations.

The fake domain often involves funny character substitution. Also, they might use a legitimate organization name in the local part of the email and hope the sender’s name appears legitimate in the recipient mailbox.

Phishing is one of the most frustrating and, arguably, the biggest threats we face. In 2020, 75% of organizations worldwide claim to have had a phishing attack in 2020, whereas in the US, 74% of phishing attacks on businesses, of which 95% have trained their employees on cyberattacks, were successful. Hence, if young, tech-savvy trained professionals are falling victimes to this scam, targeting the older demographic who are just learning the online ropes is very appealing for criminals.

As a rule, ensure you check your email addresses before clicking on links downloading any attachments.

Romance Fraud

Romance fraud[BH3]  involves criminals who pose as romantic partners and trick their victims into sending money to them. These criminals go to great lengths to gain their victims’ trust and convince them that they are in a genuine relationship.

Because the elderly are more polite and accommodating, they are more vulnerable to romance, especially those not in an active relationship. These are cybercriminals who employ some level of manipulation and persuasion [BH4] without raising any alarm.

Generally, they look for an unsuspecting, single person with a decent amount of wealth, and build relationships over time with them before making highly emotive requests such as money for emergency medical care, charity, etc. Romance scams on people ages 60 and above in the US totalled to $84 million, the highest recorded dollar amount of all fraud types.

Hence, be suspicious of any relationship built online, especially when demand for money starts setting in. And more importantly, never send money or share your bank details with any online stranger.

Consumer Fraud

Consumer fraud is when businesses conduct fake practices that lure consumers in and steal their money in return for the fake or unfound service or product. The cybercriminals trick their victims into believing they are involved in a credible [BH5] business deal when they are, in reality, being defrauded. It involves phony business promises or inaccurate claims.

Also, fake e-commerce websites hunt for susceptible elderly people who may not be familiar with their business. Most times, their orders are not delivered, and some might include hidden charges.

You should check the legitimacy of the website you’re buying from, especially websites with ambiguous IP addresses or any business plans you’re putting your money into.

How To Avoid Cyber Fraud

Keep Your Gadgets Updated

The most important way of avoiding being a victim of cyber fraud is to keep your computer and mobile devices up to date. You should know that cybercrime is getting more advanced by the day, and it’s only ideal that your security software, web browser, and operating system are also updated to defend against viruses, malware, and any cyber threat.

Use Email Lookup Tool

In terms of email phishing, one way, amongst others, to avoid being a victim is by using an email address lookup tool. Basically, what the tool does is help you get a lead’s email address using their personal data.

This tool helps you look up the email addresses using data like name, company’s name, links on social media, etc.

Use Reverse Email Search Tool

This tool works in reverse of the email lookup tool. Instead of searching for an email address using personal data, the reverse email search tool allows you to confirm the credibility of an email address.

This comes in handy when you start getting emails from unknown sources. When you run the email search, it brings in detailed personal and public data of the sender. If you don’t get any reply, it shows the email is invalid and fake.

4,000 people aged 60 and above fell victims to email fraud with a median loss of $5,000.

Keep Personal Data Personal.

Cybercriminals are professionals. They can easily guess your password from your social media profiles. Hence, avoid posting personal and sensitive information on your social media pages and lock down your privacy settings.

Be skeptical of invitations to connect with people you do not know. 

Buy Safely

Before input, your credit card details online, ensure the website is safe and secure by verifying that the web address begins with HTTPS. More so, check to see if a tiny locked padlock symbol appears on the page.


While there are significant exceptions, older people are not tech-savvy. And not as the millennial generation. However, we do hope the tips listed above will provide a strong defense against unexpected cyber attacks.

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