Cruel Ghouls: New Digital Scams Target Every Age Group

By on Oct 26, 2020

Cruel Ghouls: New Digital Scams Target Every Age Group

There are few situations more personal than a distressed family member calling to ask for financial help. But personal is precisely the angle bad actors are taking these days in scams that target both the young and old.

Grandparents Fall for Help!’ Scams

Called “The Grandparent Scam,” this con usually begins with a simple, “Hi, Grandma!” from a criminal posing as the victim’s grandchild who claims to be in trouble. Then comes the ask — that the loving (and worried) Grandparent wire money for bail, airfare, a collision, or some other emergency. Some scammers have even managed to spoof the incoming caller ID to read “U.S. District Court.”

Safe Family Tips: 1) Ask the caller to prove who they are and call the child’s parent or another relative to verify the situation. 2) Never wire money, gift cards, or send cash by courier. 3) Be skeptical of “urgent” requests and tearful pleas for cash or personal information.

Tricksters Target Millennials

While it’s hard to imagine being duped by this kind of phone call, you might be surprised to learn that it’s younger people falling hardest for scams. The Federal Trade Commission reports that Millennials (20-30-year-olds) are most likely to lose money to online fraud. The top 5 scams targeting Millennials include online shopping, business imposters, government imposters, fake check scams, and romance scams.

Safe Family Tips: Be skeptical when shopping online. Cybercriminals have created countless look-a-like merchant sites to gain access to your credit card and other personal information. Confirm the seller’s physical address and phone number before you make a purchase. Consider putting security software on your family’s devices that protect against malware, viruses, and provide families with Virtual Private Network (VPN) encryption for safe shopping.

Hackers Exploit Schools, Students

With many school districts operating on a hybrid virtual and in-class education model, the digital gap between teachers and remote students has given bad actors a new channel to launch ransomware, phishing, and social engineering scams against exposed IT infrastructures. According to the FBI, “cyber actors are likely to increase targeting of K-12 schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Too, a recent Microsoft Security Intelligence study found that 61 percent of the 7.7 million malware over the previous month targeted education, a number far higher than other sectors. Scams include malware attacks on e-learning platform ransomware attacks on larger districts.

Safe Family Tips: Inquire about on-site security measures in place at your child’s school. Look into software to protect your home network and personal devices against cyberattacks launched through email, school networks, or social media sites.

How’s Your Cyber Hygiene?

Your best defense against a scam — should it come via phone, email, or a website — is a solid offense. Consider boosting your cyber hygiene routine by using strong passwords, a VPN, and staying informed about the latest scams. By now, we know the bad actors online don’t discriminate based on age; they are out to steal data and dollars from anyone who lets down their guard.

About the Author

Toni Birdsong

Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist for McAfee. She is an author, speaker, and cyber savvy mom of two teenagers (much to their dismay). As a family safety evangelist for McAfee, she focuses on online safety and often speaks to educators, parents, and teens about dodging the dangers online. She is the co-owner of ...

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