Fort St. John seniors met with financial planners Tuesday for a refresher in scam awareness and cybersecurity, learning how to best protect themselves from phone scams and phishing in an increasingly digital world.
Financial planner Nadine Thornton of IG Wealth says seniors are particularly vulnerable, especially over the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, and was a victim of two scams in 2021 herself, noting criminals have become even more aggressive in their tactics.
“It can happen to anybody. They are extremely aggressive and very smart, they know what they’re doing. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about if you get caught, it can happen to literally anybody,” she said.
“You have to be super vigilant all the time, it’s unfortunate, but this is the reality of the internet, that you need to be super vigilant with everything.”
Scammers often pose as members of a senior's families, asking for money and assistance under the pretense of being in some kind of trouble, without ever giving their name — prompting seniors to fill in the blanks, Thornton says, which creates a false sense of trust.
“They want you to give a name so that they can become that person,” she said.
Another common scam is for criminals to hack a senior's social media account, who then pose as the senior to conduct more phishing in order hack profiles of friends and family, said Thornton. Everyone should change their passwords frequently and keep their privacy settings to friends only, she said.
“What they’re trying to do there is get your contacts date of birth, cell phone numbers, email addresses, whatever information they can mine from you. And then they can use that for identity theft,” she said.
It’s not the first time Thornton has been to the seniors hall to talk about scams. She cautions that all demographics should keep a healthy sense of skepticism, keeping an eye out for fake websites and more.
The seniors hall saw a sizable turnout for the presentation, with many getting help making sure their cell phones are on national do not call lists to help reduce their risk from scammers.
Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News