Older Adults are Being Scammed Out of Billions: How to Help Protect Your Loved Ones

The Sad Truth

Virtual predators target older adults because they’ve often been saving for decades and building up larger nest-eggs than younger people, making them lucrative targets. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), in 2022, there were 88,262 complaints of fraud from people aged 60+ resulting in $3.1 billion in losses, an 82.35% increase in losses compared to 2021.

2022 Victims by Age Group

2 Not all complaints include an associated age range—those without this information are excluded from this table. Please see Appendix B for more information regarding IC3 data.

Unfortunately, the scammers are on a roll, as of August 2023, losses from tech support scams were up 40% from the same time period in 2022, according to the FBI public service announcement, half of those victims were over 60 years old and comprise 66% of the total financial losses. 

These statistics are alarming, and although there have been many scam prevention articles, and national news broadcast stories highlighting this global threat, the number of victims continues to rise. There are many digital literacy tools available, but very few if any are tailored to the preferences and sensibilities of older adults, which limits their effectiveness.

A Better Option

Remember, there is always strength in numbers and that’s one reason the DART Collective (Deception Awareness and Resilience Training) was formed. DART is focused on understanding how older adults fall victim to online deceptions, and creating tools to educate and empower them to better navigate and avoid those threats.

DART has designed and developed a mobile game called DeepCover where players focus on solving a series of puzzles in order to advance to the next level of game-play. With each level, players are exposed to a variety of real-life deceptive tactics, including engaging and realistic social media scenarios, while becoming more familiar with the language scammers speak. The aim is to make the game easy to use, so older adults can learn on their own, in communal settings such as adult homes, community centers, libraries, or with the aid of a caregiver or loved one.

Successfully Addressing a Sensitive Subject

It’s important to remember that the statistics mentioned above were created from victims who actually reported being scammed. Victims have shared an overwhelming feeling of humiliation after being scammed and often admitted to hiding the incident from their family and friends. It’s best to have a sensitive approach when sharing this tool to empower and support the older adults in your life. 

With that said, here are some ways to broach the subject of scams with the older adults in your life. 

  • Try sharing stories about people you know that have been victims of scams. People relate better to stories than statistics, it’s just how our brains work. Also, relating a story instead of giving warnings or “lecturing” (especially emotionally) will help reduce the risk of them feeling weak, vulnerable, or ignorant, and therefore rejecting the information or dismissing the threat.

  • Appeal to the shared play aspect and sense of togetherness. Show how you and their other family members are all getting in on the fun of playing this new spy-game, and how great it would be to all play it and enjoy it together. Our elders are looking for ways to feel included and connected, and this is a great way to do that – with other benefits as well of course.

  • Have them jump right in and “help you” while playing. When you’re together, and you find a puzzle challenging (or perhaps just relevant to a specific concern), ask them to jump in and give it a try. It’s common knowledge with most older adults that puzzles are beneficial for brain-health, so they’ll likely be open to it – and let the fun and self-adjusting challenge level of the game take it from there!

And of course, your loved one may or may not be familiar on how to download the game and get set up, so here’s the rundown on how to do that for yourself and them.

How to Get Playing

  1. First things first – Download the free game on both of your phones by choosing the appropriate app store:
    1. For Android Phones, go to the Google Play DeepCover
    2. For iPhones, use App Store DeepCover
  2. Once the app has downloaded click on the DeepCover App icon to start 
  3. It begins to load and then prompts you to “Enter Your Codename” you’ll be playing the role of a spy, so think of something clever. Type in your codename and click confirm.
  4. Settings will appear where you can adjust sound if necessary, then press the confirm button to continue.
  5. Now the fun begins, you’ll be given options to create the way your spy character looks. You can choose one that you create yourself by picking facial features or arrow over to choose a character that has already been created.
  6. Once your spy character looks the way you want, tap the Save button and you’ll hear an incoming message about all the agents and why they need your help.
  7. After the message, click the select button. Now, your fellow agent will appear and bring you up to speed.
  8. Tap the downward arrow in the bottom right corner to choose your first operation.

Anything we can do to protect our loved ones from these growing threats is well worth it, and every action matters. Thanks for being someone who cares enough to act, and if you want or need more info or support on acting effectively, check out our resource section, or even learn how to Partner in DART’s mission.