As a senior with vision loss, you have doubtless been encouraged to use computers, smartphones, and other access technologies to help regain and maintain your quality of life. With these devices, you can potentially recapture nearly all of the independence you once thought might be gone forever. But along with the advantages, come certain risks and responsibilities.
Scams Old and New
In days of yore, grifters and confidence men came knocking on your door to ply their scams. If you fell for their ploy, the nogoodnik would likely mark your fence or curb with chalk—a way of letting the next con man to arrive know, "Here lives an easy mark." With the spread of the US Postal Service, many huskers and thieves began mailing out everything from phony charity pleas to special deals on non-existent products. The telephone opened up yet another whole new world, leading to "boiler rooms," entire phone banks where people make one call after another, sometimes for legitimate purposes, but other times to separate you from your hard-earned savings.
This is all to say that grifters and con men have been around for a long time, and their techniques advance with each new spin of the "Wheel of Lost Fortune." Today, much of this crime is Internet-based, but that doesn’t make it a new phenomenon or make the Information Superhighway anymore or less dangerous than your own neighborhood. As a senior with vision loss, you take particular care to employ simple precautions to protect yourself against crime. You have your Social Security check auto-deposited so that it doesn’t get stolen from your mailbox. You only hire plumbers and other repairmen who are bonded and/or have been recommended by family and friends. And even with the threat of crime always possible, you refuse to hide in your house and avoid enjoying life. It’s the same for being online. Always take simple precautions, but don’t let fear stop you from enjoying Facebook or shopping online for that unique cat toy or new bedspread.
Ways to Protect Yourself from Scams
AT&T has produced an excellent, easy-to-read guide called Protecting Seniors from Online Scams. It’s definitely worth your time to read. In the meantime, here are two things you need to know immediately:
The IRS, Social Security, and other government agencies never initiate contact via either a phone call or e-mail. They use US mail and include a phone number you can call to confirm the information.
Microsoft never EVER contacts users directly by phone. Those calls you receive advising you there’s a dangerous security problem on your computer are scams. Their goal is to connect remotely to your computer and install viruses, trojans, and spyware so that they can later gather personal information and even drain bank accounts.