For many years, state, federal and local officials have been keeping tabs on various kinds of elder abuse. Physical abuse is one of the most common types of reported elder abuse in the country – but individuals also prey on the elderly through financial elder abuse, and even in some instances, sexual elder abuse.
All of these are threats that family members have to watch out for – but we must not forget trends in digital abuse, which use technology to harm the elderly.
What Is Digital Elder Abuse?
Digital elder abuse involves using social media or other technology in a way that harms the interests of senior citizens. Digital elder abuse can start out as something that’s seen as relatively harmless – a quickly snapped picture of someone in a nursing home setting, or being cared for at home.
But in too many cases, these types of pics and posts can constitute significant elder abuse – an activity that’s found to be humiliating or dehumanizing, or threaten the privacy of someone who is in a vulnerable state.
Examples of Internet Scams Targeting the Elderly
- Phishing Scams: Phishing scams involve fraudsters posing as legitimate organizations or individuals to trick victims into sharing sensitive information. Elderly individuals may receive emails, text messages, or calls claiming to be from banks, government agencies, or familiar companies. These messages often request personal information, such as Social Security numbers or financial details.
- Tech Support Scams: In this scam, fraudsters contact elderly individuals claiming to be tech support representatives from well-known companies like Microsoft or Apple. They convince the victims that their computers are infected with viruses and request remote access or payment for services.
- Romance Scams: Elderly individuals seeking companionship may fall victim to romance scams. Scammers create fake online profiles on dating websites or social media platforms to establish emotional connections with seniors. They often exploit the victims' emotions and trust, eventually asking for money or financial assistance.
- Investment Scams: Scammers often target retirees with promises of high returns on investments or exclusive opportunities. They may approach seniors through unsolicited emails, social media, or phone calls, offering fraudulent investment opportunities.
- Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams: Elderly individuals are frequently targeted with false promises of winning a large sum of money through sweepstakes or lottery scams. Scammers inform victims that they have won a prize but need to pay taxes or fees to claim it.
Ways to Help Seniors Avoid Internet Scams
We can help protect our elderly loved ones against digital scams by encouraging them to do the following:
- Be cautious and verify the authenticity of any requests for personal information.
- Never grant remote access to unknown parties or provide financial information over the phone.
- Exercise caution when forming relationships online and avoid sharing personal or financial information with individuals they have not met in person.
- Research investment opportunities thoroughly, seek advice from trusted financial advisors, and never rush into decisions or send money without proper verification.
- Remember that legitimate lotteries and sweepstakes do not require upfront payments. Never share personal or financial information in response to claims about winning a prize.
Protecting the Most Vulnerable Among Us
To understand digital elder abuse, it’s important to understand that many senior citizens are inherently vulnerable to all sorts of threats. Unlike younger, able-bodied citizens, many of them have serious mobility issues. Many also have some form of senility or dementia. Some have been dealing with the onset of Alzheimer’s or a similar condition.
All of this makes the elderly a high-risk category for all of these various types of abuse. Simply put, they’re less able to fight for themselves – so they need someone to fight for them. Caregivers need to have their best interests at heart. Someone needs to be available to keep in touch with an aging family member and simply understand their overall welfare from day-to-day.
Increasing Our Awareness About Digital Elder Abuse
It’s in this context that we talk about recognizing the threat of digital elder abuse and dealing with practically. Like all forms of combating elder abuse, this means understanding the rights of the elderly, and what it means to provide humane care.
We have to remember that when someone is unable to give consent for activities, a lot of foresight and consideration is needed. We have to understand what can constitute a breach of someone’s privacy, and how to err on the side of safety – of protecting elderly residents from harm.
Contact Steve Watrel for Experienced Legal Help
For questions about any type of elder abuse including digital elder abuse, talk to Steve Watrel. As a long-time nursing home abuse lawyer in the Jacksonville Florida area, Steve Watrel has seen all sorts of cases, including those that have to do with new technologies. Sit down and talk with us about how you’re feeling about your family member’s experience in a nursing home or long-term care facility.