Online identity theft can impact anyone. However, according to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, consumers who are 65 or older are particularly susceptible, .
IT security firm McAfee recently released a study that investigated the online activity of the 50-plus generation, revealing that the five hours a day on average they spend online exposes them to security and social media risks that may compromise their data. For instance, 88 percent of older Americans are more likely to share personal information online than their kids or grandkids, despite claiming that they are just as tech-savvy as younger generations. An estimated 26 percent of older respondents, according to McAfee, have shared their home address, while 27 percent have disclosed a cellphone number. In a what can make them vulnerable to phishing attacks, more than 50 percent of senior citizens have shared their email address online.
"The use of social networks among people 50-plus is trending now that it's become more commonplace across all age groups," said Michelle Dennedy, vice president and chief privacy officer at McAfee. "It seems counterintuitive that sharing personal information with strangers would not concern them, however. This further highlights their need to better understand the difference between the real and perceived dangers online and how to best protect themselves."
The figures begin to get more worrisome when looking at password protection metrics. About one-third of the 50-plus generation claim to have password protection for their tablets and smartphone devices, while just shy of 60 percent of seniors claim their devices are equipped to block malware, viruses and other programs favored by identity thieves.
"Many seniors spend lifetimes building credit and saving money for their golden years, but the identity thieves steal their hard-earned savings or ruin their reputations," said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez at a recent forum on senior identity theft, The Street reported.
Fighting Cybercrime for Seniors
The AARP is teaming up with Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, among other consumer fraud experts, to help fight online fraud and identity theft, .
"Whether it's over the phone, through the mail, online or even at your doorstep, con-artists are coming up with new and deceptive ways to scam you and your loved ones," Ferguson said at the Museum of Flight in Seattle for the anti-fraud seminar SCAM JAM. "But we're fighting back, and today's event is the first in a series of efforts to make Washington the hardest state in the nation to defraud consumers."
As a significant part of fighting identity theft, the Fraud Watch Network – a system to raise awareness about possible malicious activity – will help residents avoid scams and potentially threatening online activity when they sign up. They'll receive alerts about new scams and can report suspicious activity with the AARP Foundation Fraud Fighter Call Center in Seattle.