Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Seniors: Don’t Get Taken Advantage of Online

Did you know there is an actual law in Judaism prohibiting the theft of one’s knowledge? Known as geneivat da’at, the principle states that fooling someone and causing them to have a mistaken assumption, belief or impression leads the deceiving individual to be held responsible for the deceived person’s actions. 

In Judaism, geneivat da’at is considered to be a worse offense than lying or cheating. The repercussions often negatively affect many more people than only the original individual who was duped. 

In the internet age, I have seen many instances of geneivat da’at occur when innocent people are misled by fraudulent email messages, websites, text messages or social media posts. Many times, the result of these individuals being victims of geneivat da’at is that their identity is stolen, which is a nightmare scenario. Not surprisingly, it is usually older people who fall victim to this.

Facebook is certainly one of the most common places in which users over a certain age (we’ll call them “Boomers”) become deceived. Most of the duplicate friend requests I receive on Facebook are from fake accounts posing as older users. These illegitimate Facebook requests are part of a scam. The Facebook user often will post a legitimate message on their Facebook account letting their friends know that they shouldn’t accept any new Facebook friend requests from them because their profile has been duplicated, but they may not realize the seriousness of this act.

This scam involves a nefarious person (often in a foreign country) making virtual copies of real Facebook accounts by copying the photos and information from the real account’s “About” page to the fake ones. They then send friend requests to the friends listed on the real account. While some might find it humorous that so many seniors have had their Facebook accounts mirrored, the scam is more insidious than many realize. 

After the scammer has fooled enough of the person’s friends to accept the friend requests on the fake account, there are many ways the scammer can trick others now that they have stolen someone’s identity on the social networking site. The scammer may request a gift card, entice you to play a game that downloads malicious software (malware) to your computer or trick you into downloading a virus that shares your personal data.

If you receive a friend request from someone you are already friends with, search your friend list to see if you are still friends with that person. If you are, you have likely received a friend request from a fake Facebook account that was duplicated from a legitimate account. You can contact your friend by Facebook Messenger, by phone or send them an email or text message to verify if the new friend request was intentional. If it was not, they can report the duplicate account to Facebook to shut it down.

There are many other ways seniors are being taken advantage of on the web by hackers and scammers. Through my company, Access Technology, I am often contacted by seniors unsure if an email message they received is legitimate. The email may be very confusing to them because it alerts them that their password was compromised and there’s a link to change it. If they click the link, they’re providing their credentials to a hacker. 

Oftentimes, they receive an alarming email that their identity has been stolen or that their personal information is available on the Dark Web, and they can’t decipher if the message is genuine.

The older generation is much less technology-savvy than the younger generations who have grown up with the internet. Seniors also tend to be more trusting, which can lead to vulnerabilities with regard to maintaining security with personal information. 

Keeping Personal Information Secure 

Investing in a subscription plan with a trusted company like McAfee, Norton, Kaspersky or Avast can help keep your personal data secure and your computer safe from viruses. 

It’s also important to never feel pressured to give information like your Social Security number, credit card information or account passwords over the phone. This is especially true if the call was unexpected or from an unusual number. 

Scammers may try to use calls, texts and emails to impersonate customer service representatives from companies you use and trust (like the electric company, your internet provider or Amazon). If you are ever unsure, it is always safest to end the call and reach out directly to customer support using a trusted number. 

With email messages, it is always recommended to check the email address that sent the message to determine if it looks authentic. 

Additionally, remember that reputable companies will never ask you to provide payment information over the phone or demand that you purchase a gift card for payment.

When in doubt about the legitimacy of any website, email message or phone call, it is always best to dig a little deeper or ask someone for help before succumbing to geneivat da’at. 

Originally Published at The Detroit Jewish News

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