The #1 group of people who are targeted by cyber hackers, today, are the people over 60 years old.

Think about your grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and anyone else who you know is over 60, and ask yourself, “When is the last time I talked to them about cybersecurity?” The cyber adversary know this group of people is very smart, but not technically savvy. Many of them never grew up with computers. Most of them spent their high school and college years on typewriters. They did not grow up using computers, as our kids do. They, also, trust a lot of people. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but in cyberspace, it can get them into a lot of trouble.

It’s important that you spend time telling your elderly loved ones to not trust anything they see online / in their inbox. Warn them, if they get a message saying, “their system is compromised,” do not call the number or click on the link. One of the worst calls imaginable would be from my parents or grandparents, saying that they lost all of their life savings. Not only would I be really mad that someone hurt a family member, but I’d also be mad at myself if I hadn’t warned them about the risks.

You might not think you’re a cybersecurity expert, but, most likely, you have more knowledge about what goes on in cyberspace than they do, so you need to have that conversation with them.

Here are a couple of examples of how the adversary is scamming people, this year, and what you should be thinking about:

A colleague, recently, told me about his Mom’s phone getting locked. After reading a lot about hackers, she thinks her phone must be hacked, so she goes on her iPad and googles, “What to do if your iPhone gets hacked.”

One of the first ads says, “We’re the National Committee on Cyber Fraud and we’re here to help. Call this number.”

I even pulled that ad up and thought it looked pretty valid. After learning that she has multiple devices and uses the same accounts on each one, they really play on her fears. They advise her to go purchase three $100 iTunes gift cards (one for each of her three devices), and to call them from the parking lot once she has them.

She does as instructed and they proceed to “check” her first device (after they receive the information about the first $100 iTunes gift card, of course).

They tell her, “that worked,” and asked for the next card.

Unfortunately, on the second device, the second card only “fixed her second device 50{eb2dd144dc077676a5023eacca2d01ef9c3f02c22330f35001e7063f427f969c}.” The third card only “fixed her second device 80{eb2dd144dc077676a5023eacca2d01ef9c3f02c22330f35001e7063f427f969c},” so they asked her to go back in and buy more $100 iTunes gift cards.

They continued to play that same game until $3000 worth of gift cards later, all of her devices were finally “secure.” I’m sure some of you are wondering how someone could have been so gullible as to think that purchasing 30 $100 giftcards would actually fix their seemingly compromised devices.

My friend’s mom is a brilliant, well accomplished woman, but she simply doesn’t know or understand technology. She just wasn’t aware. What really breaks my heart is that she genuinely thought she was doing the right thing. She thought those cons were good, ethical people there to help her.

This is why it’s so important for you to talk with everyone you love and care about over age 60. Tell them that if they’re having any issues with their devices, to go to a known brick and mortar store, instead of looking for help online, and don’t trust any links or emails. Also, warn them not to call any number, and especially don’t give out passwords, bank account information, access to their computer or anything of financial value (i.e. gift cards or credit cards). We need to train our parents (and possibly ourselves!) that everything on the internet can’t be trusted, especially when so many of the search results you get are fraudulent.

If I’ve convinced you to reach out to those you love over 60 and warn them about the risks in cyberspace, then my mission is complete. If you’re still saying, “Eric, I don’t think that anyone I know would fall for any of that,” then keep reading… because I’m going to give you another example.

A few months ago, another friend of mine received an email that said, “We’ve received information that your data has been compromised because your computer has been hacked. Follow these 17 steps to secure your system.”

The steps are valid, but super technical, so most average people won’t know how to do them.

So most people will click on the live chat link provided in the email that says, “If you need help following any of these steps, reach out to us.”

The live chat operator will, then, instruct you to add their key to your registry. When you tell them that you don’t know how to do that, they will say, “I don’t want your password or anything sensitive, but if you’ll click on this link to give me control of your computer, remotely, I’ll be able to help you while you watch everything I’m doing.” (That sounds legit, right?)

Of course they start off doing legitimate things on your computer, but most people will either stop watching or have no idea what they’re watching. So, in most cases, they’re actually infecting and compromising your system, by putting in back doors that can continue to remotely access your system. They may even start opening your browser in other files to start looking for passwords and financial information.

Usually, they’ll start small to see if you notice.

Then, if you do ask something like, “Why did you go in my Quickbooks,” they’ll say something like, “O, sorry, I didn’t mean to go in there.” If they do go into something like your Quickbooks and you don’t say anything, then they know you’re not paying attention or don’t know what’s going on.

At that point, they’ll harvest your system (possibly right before your very eyes)! Remember that all of this started because you trusted an email and clicked on a link.

Once again, you need to talk to your parents and explain to them that there are a lot of scams out there. There are a lot of emails, messages, and phone calls where people will claim that your system is compromised.

Don’t believe them!

Ask a family member, friend, or trusted physical entity before you believe any email or phone call. If you do happen to get that email or call, hang up / don’t click on anything, and simply don’t engage at all. If, by chance, you don’t follow that advice and you do end up clicking, don’t give out any sensitive information.

No legitimate sites are going to ask for your password, account information, or to go to a store and buy gift cards.

Raise your parents’ awareness, by making them understand the dangers that lurk in cyberspace.

Remember those over 60 are the #1 demographic for those targeted by the adversary. You don’t want to get that phone call that someone you love has had their entire life savings wiped out by a cyber attack, when you could have done something about it.

My book, Online Danger, and my site are both great assets to give to your loved ones to help teach them about what goes on in cyberspace. Feel free to reach out to me, at anytime.