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Seniors should be wary of Facebook scams

September 24, 2012

Older adults are the fastest growing segment of Facebook users, and while the popular social network helps seniors stay connected to friends and family, it also puts them at a greater risk for falling victim to scams and frauds. The Facebook "like" button has become a popular channel for scam artists, but AARP says there are many ways for seniors to protect themselves.

One of the most popular schemes disguises the like button as something else, such as a video play button. Once users click the button, they are taken to a website where they have to provide personal information. Not only is the click providing money to unscrupulous fraudsters, but experts say the subsequent websites are also hives of malware and viruses that can damage a computer.

Another common scam also makes use of the like button, but this time around it entices users to click with the promise of free items. Though the method is different the goal is the same: to get users to willingly provide personal information.

"There are two goals in most social media scams: to spread quickly and to make money," Gerry Egan of Norton online security products told AARP.

There are many simple steps seniors can take to make sure they don't fall victim to similar scams. Perhaps most importantly, it's crucial to use the like button sparingly. Depending on what a person clicks on, it could signal attraction from people looking to pick up a quick dollar. Additionally, seniors should employ Facebook-specific security settings to guard against viruses and malware.

Senior fraud has been trending upward, recent research has found. Specifically, a 2011 study from the MetLife Mature Market Institute found seniors lost an average of $2.9 billion each year from scams.