Do scammers target older people more than younger people? Absolutely. And there are several reasons for this. Scammers target senior citizens because this demographic finds adapting to increasingly complex technology challenging. Also, retirees don’t always put up the same guard online as they would in real life.

Indeed, it is near impossible to prevent scammers from contacting you if you use social media. Nevertheless, avoiding phone scammers and keeping your retirement money safe is possible. You can automate some of the safety measures; others you must do actively. But it gets easier once you know what to look out for.

Enable These Security Settings on Your Phone

The settings below aren’t advanced by any means, but they improve your device’s security and privacy.

1. Set Up a Phone Lock

It’s convenient to pick up your phone, swipe up, and unlock it. However, this practice is dangerous. You should have a screen lock on your phone, even if you feel there isn’t any important stuff on it.

Take, for example, text messages and contact numbers. Anyone with access to your phone may add a new contact or swap an existing contact’s phone with theirs. They may then call or text you under this false identity and defraud you.

You have three main options regarding phone locks: password, PIN, or biometrics. Passwords are the most secure of these options. Ideally, your password should be at least 12 characters long and comprise letters and numbers. So, a password containing your spouse’s name and the year you met is a good starter.

2. Hide Notification Previews

Notification previews let you see incoming messages and alerts from apps. However, it is also a privacy and security risk, even with your phone locked. For instance, if you lose your phone, anyone can read your messages, and strangers may see the information you would rather keep private. We’ve talked about how to disable notification previews on Android. There are also helpful tips on hiding notification previews on iPhone.

3. Enable Auto Updates for Apps and Phone Security

Updating apps on your phone is like fixing a broken fence post early. It’s not a big deal at first but left unrepaired, that hole could let in stray into your backyard. The same applies to your phone security updates.

But unlike your fence, you don’t have to look for outdated apps manually. Both the App Store and Play Store update your apps automatically by default. But make sure you’re on Wi-Fi so that the downloads don’t chew through your cellular data.

Avoiding Online Scams as a Retiree

Enabling the settings mentioned above is important, especially if your phone gets stolen. However, avoiding scammers while you’re online is also essential. So, here are some common scams that affect retirees and how to avoid them:

1. Online Dating Scams

Millennials and Gen Z call it catfishing. It’s when someone pretends to be who they’re not and makes friends with you. If you’re joining a dating app for seniors after retirement, you must watch out for scammers.

Keep an eye out for common red flags that can help you spot and avoid scammers on dating apps. The obvious ones are that they avoid physical meetups or video calls. Also, if an online lover asks for money to finance their travel to meet you, it’s most likely a scam.

2. Phishing

Phishing is a term that describes when a scammer sends a text or email asking you to do something. In most cases, the scammer will impersonate a person or business you would trust (your bank, utility company, or even the government).

There are several ways to spot a phishing scam. One thing to look out for is that these texts or emails will ask you to share your personal information or send money. But as a rule of thumb, if you can’t see them in person, don’t send money or share your account information. Of course, this rule of thumb is not set in stone; scammers have become clever in their attempts.

3. Vishing

Vishing (or voice phishing) is when a scammer calls you and pretends to be someone else. They may claim to be from the IRS and spin a story about you owing back taxes. There are also other ways scammers vish, from impersonating bank employees to claiming to be your grandchild.

The best way to avoid vishing scams is to avoid picking calls from unknown numbers. Also, avoid calling random numbers that people post online. Indeed, there are cases where you may want to call someone back. But before you do, verify the unknown caller’s identity.

4. Grandparent Scams

The FBI has documented reports of grandparent scams since 2008, where the scammer claim to be a grandchild and sends a text asking for desperate help. For instance, you may receive a call from someone claiming to be a lawyer informing you that your grandchild has been arrested in a different city. They then ask that you send some money to help bail your grandchild. Claiming to be a lawyer is the hook scammers use to give their story credibility.

It’s natural to be worried that your grandchild is in danger. But resist the urge to send money immediately. Instead, call their parents, your grandchild’s friends, or other family members. Tell them about your call and ask if they’ve had other news. Other family members may have contrary information.

5. Vacation and Travel Scams

Retirement is when you fully disconnect from work, change environments, and create new memories. You should take the time to plan your vacation and choose the best sites. But while you’re at it, watch out for vacation scams.

The same rules of thumb apply to avoiding these scams. For starters, be careful when picking up unsolicited phone calls. Avoid giving your personal information out to unknown travel agents. Use travel agents a close friend or family member recommended instead.

6. Lottery Scams

Nobody hates winning the lottery. But is it possible to win a lottery you never even entered in the first place? No. Fake prizes, sweepstakes, and lotteries are common ways scammers attempt to defraud retirees.

Generally, they claim you won some lottery or prize, but they would need your account details to process the winnings. Other times they ask for some financial commitment on your part before sending your prize. Real prizes are free. A lottery is most likely fake if you have to pay or share your financial information to get your winnings.

Get a Burner Phone After Retirement

There are several reasons to get a burner phone. But the best reason to get a burner phone would be that you can dedicate that phone to non-personal stuff. So, your burner phone would not contain any sensitive, private, or financial information. What’s more, you can take it up a notch by getting a burner phone number.

A burner phone number is a good idea if you don’t wish to share your personal number with every person you meet. And you don’t have to get a SIM card—those often require that you provide a name and address. Instead, you use an app for a temporary burner phone number. The costs are lower than the phone bills you would get with a regular line.

Keep Up With the Times

Whether it be video-calling your loved ones, finding love, or researching places to visit, you need to go online once in a while. Scammers will always come up with new, creative ways to steal your retirement savings, but the tips shared in this article will help you stay ahead of them no matter how old you are.

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