Help protect seniors from social media scams


President and CEO of Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Mainland BC


 ONLINE dating and Facebooking isn’t just for millennials or those busy, upwardly mobile, young professionals looking for a relationship.

More and more seniors are logging on as a way to stay active and connected with family who may be spread out across the country. This is made easier by tech savvy grandchildren able to show them what social media platforms are and how to use them.

However more diligence is necessary in helping seniors identify the pitfalls and potential scams that haunt social networking sites like Facebook. The problem can be compounded if the senior online is lonely when family isn’t close by.

Recently, a 74-year-old woman in Nanaimo, BC was robbed of $125,000 from a man she friended on Facebook. Like a typical Facebook scam, it started with a simple friendship request from someone she didn’t know. The relationship blossoms over several months and then the money requests start happening.

In this case the man, who claimed was living in Africa and working as an engineer, asked for money to help fix work-related equipment. The lies thickened as the man was then reportedly involved in a car accident and needed money for mounting medical bills. He then slips into a coma and photo-shopped pictures are sent to the victim from a friend of her ‘boyfriend’ who then continues to bilk her of money.

The trusting nature was extended in this case even after the woman’s bank stopped releasing funds over concerns of fraudulent activity. The victim simply withdrew money from a different account and continued to give it away.

She finally became suspicious after she was contacted by someone claiming to be from Interpol who was once again asking for money to investigate her ‘friend’ for fraud.

The bottom line in this scenario is that seniors represent a vulnerable group in the online world. They tend to be trusting and polite and don’t want to believe someone could be scamming them. In fact, a study done by Northwestern University indicates we tend to be more trusting as we get older. While that can be a good thing for overall health, it has the potential for making seniors more susceptible to scams.

If you have a senior in your family or circle of friends, help them by keeping them informed as much as possible about potential social media scams. Instill in your family a sense of oversight without being controlling or intrusive. Ask questions; make sure they know how to spot a scammer.

Helping a senior be forewarned could aid them in protecting not only their sense of good will but their life savings.