Escalating Cyber Crimes Targeting the Elderly: Exploring the Subtle Effects of Ageism

Conference: The European Conference on Aging & Gerontology (EGen2022)
Title: Escalating Cyber Crimes Targeting the Elderly: Exploring the Subtle Effects of Ageism
Stream: Entrepreneurship/Silver Economy
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation
Jacob Vargis, Marymount University, United States
Donna Schaeffer, Marymount University, United States


Older adults are increasingly targeted by exploitations of vulnerabilities in cyber technologies. Digital transformations of most essential services have made us all, many unwillingly, cyber users of products and services provided by new and often unfamiliar digital intermediaries and technology platforms. The recent rush to make available basic services for COVID-19 compliant operating models - that purport convenient remote, anywhere access - has resulted in the hasty digitization of essential services, often compromising on security and privacy considerations in exchange for availability of and access to these services. This rush to digitization has proven to be challenging and costly for older adults as evidenced by the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center’s (IC3) Internet Crime Reports. These reports illustrate the significant increase in cyberattacks targeting those over 60, to the tune of $1 billion in losses in 2020 from 28% of all incidents reported to IC3. This 35% increase over 2019 prompted the release of an IC3 annual report focusing entirely on Elder Fraud in 2021. We contend that these cyber technologies are seldom if at all, designed with consideration for the usability requirements of the elderly. We explore the subtle effects of ageism on the design and use of today’s cyber technologies, and the resultant vulnerabilities and usability shortfalls for older adult cyber users of these technologies.

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