One of our favorite service activities as BoomerTECH Adventures guides is visiting local retirement communities to share our knowledge and resources. During a recent session, we discussed the growing problem of online scams popping up on everyone’s connected devices. Sometimes it feels so unsafe in cyberspace it’s tempting to stop checking email, answering smart phones, responding to text messages, interacting on social media or doing anything online. But wait! It’s not necessary to cut ourselves off from the many benefits available to us on the World Wide Web. After all, there’s a lot of useful information and important personal connections online. How would we have stayed in touch with family members the past three years? I’m reminded of our parents’ advice about crossing the street while going to the playground: “Look both ways and beware of strangers.” They didn’t tell us to stay home and to avoid making new friends. We experienced a few close calls and accidents, but for the most part, their advice was right on as we ventured out into the world. Keeping their advice in mind, here are some common scams to avoid along with some advice for staying safe while exploring cyberspace.

One of the oldest and most common scams is “phishing.” Scammers send emails that look like they’re from legitimate businesses, organizations or even the government with the purpose of tricking you into giving up personal information such as your address, phone number, passwords, bank account numbers, your Social Security number and other confidential information. They do this by getting you to click on a link or by calling a phone number that takes you to a legitimate-appearing site which will “securely and confidentially” ask for personal information needed as indicated in the email. No matter what any email says, DO NOT click on the link provided or call the phone number listed! Doing so literally opens a digital doorway to your device that they can enter. If you recognize the company mentioned in the email and want to find out more, simply go to their official website and contact them through the email provided there. If the email asks you to call a number, go to the official website and call that number instead. If you mistakenly click on the link and realize it could be a scam, don’t worry — simply delete the email and close your browser. No harm done and lesson learned!

“Smishing” is a new form of phishing where scammers contact you through texting or SMS (Short Message Service). The scammer’s strategy is similar to phishing. Smishing scams trick potential victims into clicking on a link to confirm or deny suspicious credit card charges. Scammers will also pose as charities, collection agencies or law enforcement. Often, they will indicate that time is of the essence due to an emergency. The grandparent or loved one text scam is an example of a smishing scam taking advantage of a fake emergency. The scammer’s target receives a text that their “grandchild,” relative or close friend is in an emergency situation, often in a foreign country, and requires money quickly to ensure their safety. DO NOT respond or send money. Instead, contact your loved one directly to determine what the actual situation is. Sometimes the communication will contain seemingly personal information, making the message more believable. Keep in mind that with a little effort, scammers can find information about you, your friends and family through online public records and social media. Delete these kinds of texts immediately.

As more people are doing business and shopping online, fake checks and overpayment scams are on the increase. These scams involve the “buyer” overpaying by check. They ask the seller to deposit the check and refund the difference to the buyer. A week or so after the seller has done that, the fake check bounces, leaving the seller with nothing minus what they sent to the “buyer” as a refund for “overpayment.” The best way to protect yourself is to avoid taking checks when selling online and never issuing refunds in cash in exchange for a check.

Scammers may pose as local, state or federal agencies to threaten you with collections, penalties or legal sanctions unless you comply immediately. When it comes to enforcing laws or collecting taxes government agencies, DO NOT contact anyone by text, email or phone. If you receive these types of messages from someone claiming to be from the IRS, U.S. Postal Service, state or local tax collections, the police, the courts, or any other government agency, contact them directly to determine whether they are actually trying to contact you. DO NOT call back, click on a link or respond to an email. If someone claiming to be from a governmental agency contacts you and requests payment, personal information such as your Social Security number, bank account information or other confidential information about yourself or your family, it’s a scam. And they will never ask you to send gift cards as payment!

Another scam that literally pops up is the “Your computer is locked” or “Your computer is infected” scam. This scam tries to convince you that you need to click on a link that will take you to a website where they will sell you software to “fix” the problem. Of course, they will ask for your credit card number and other private information. Another aspect of this scam is that the scammer may ask you to let them access your computer remotely to “fix” the problem. Once they have remote access to your computer, they can install spyware or malware — programs that let them track all your activities or transfer your private data to their computer. If you see the “Your computer is frozen or infected” popup, DO NOT click on the link or any icons that pop up. Instead, simply close your browser and restart it. When it restarts, the popup should be gone.

Finally, if you have been scammed or you think someone is trying to scam you or a friend, report it to this website: Doing this may keep someone from being scammed in the future.

BoomerTECH Adventures ( provides expert guidance and resources to help Boomers and older adults develop competence and confidence using their Apple devices. Boomers themselves, BoomerTECH Adventures rely on their skills as educators to create experiences that meet individual needs through videos, Zoom presentations, tech tips, and timely blog posts.

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