Cyber scammers target parents, grandparents for digital theft. Losses from digital theft have doubled over the past two years, according to the FBI. Sharyn Alfonsi shows how cyber scammers are using AI, apps and social engineering to target seniors.

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The Rising Tide of Digital Theft: How Cyber Scammers Are Exploiting AI, Apps, and Social Engineering to Target Seniors


In an increasingly digitized world, the threat of digital theft has grown exponentially, with losses doubling over the past two years. Among the most vulnerable targets are seniors, who often lack the technical knowledge and experience to defend themselves against sophisticated cyber scammers. These criminals are not only leveraging cutting-edge technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and apps but are also using psychological manipulation through social engineering to exploit the elderly. In this article, we’ll explore the rising trend of digital theft and the methods employed by cyber scammers to target seniors.

The Soaring Losses

Over the last couple of years, the world has witnessed a staggering rise in digital theft incidents. Reports from various cybersecurity firms and law enforcement agencies indicate that financial losses due to cybercrime have doubled, reaching astronomical figures. This alarming trend is partially fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced people of all ages to rely more heavily on digital platforms for communication, entertainment, and financial transactions.

The Vulnerable Senior Population

While digital theft affects people of all ages, seniors are particularly susceptible to cyber scams. The elderly often lack the familiarity with technology that younger generations have grown up with, making them more vulnerable to manipulation and deception by cybercriminals. Moreover, seniors may be more trusting, making them easier targets for scams that exploit this trust.

Exploiting Technology: AI and Apps

Cyber scammers are continually evolving their tactics to stay one step ahead of cybersecurity measures. One of the ways they are doing this is by leveraging AI and mobile apps to create convincing phishing schemes and fraudulent applications. AI algorithms can mimic human behaviors, enabling scammers to craft more sophisticated and personalized phishing emails. These emails can appear to come from trusted sources, making it challenging for seniors to distinguish between legitimate and malicious communications.

Fraudulent mobile apps are another significant concern. Cybercriminals create fake apps that mimic popular services or financial institutions. Unsuspecting seniors may download these apps, thinking they are legitimate, only to have their personal and financial information stolen.

Social Engineering: A Powerful Tool

Beyond the technological tools, cyber scammers often employ psychological manipulation through social engineering tactics to exploit seniors. Social engineering involves manipulating individuals into revealing confidential information or performing actions that compromise their security. Here’s how this method is being used against seniors:

  1. Emotional Manipulation: Scammers use emotional tactics to evoke fear, urgency, or sympathy. They might pretend to be a distressed family member in need of immediate financial assistance.
  2. Impersonation: By posing as trusted entities, such as government agencies or tech support, scammers deceive seniors into sharing personal information or granting remote access to their computers.
  3. Relationship Building: Some scammers invest time in building a rapport with their victims, gaining their trust over time. This makes seniors more likely to comply with their requests.

Protecting Seniors Against Digital Theft

Protecting seniors from digital theft requires a multi-pronged approach:

  1. Education: Seniors must receive education on digital literacy, including how to spot phishing emails, recognize fake apps, and understand common cyber threats.
  2. Security Software: Ensure seniors have up-to-date antivirus software and robust cybersecurity measures on their devices.
  3. Family Involvement: Family members should play an active role in monitoring their elderly loved ones’ digital activities and providing guidance and support.
  4. Communication: Encourage seniors to reach out and verify any suspicious requests for personal or financial information, even if the message appears to come from a trusted source.
  5. Government Initiatives: Governments should implement stricter regulations on app stores and digital platforms to prevent the distribution of fraudulent apps and enact laws to punish cybercriminals.


The doubling of losses from digital theft over the past two years is a concerning trend that affects people of all ages, with seniors being particularly vulnerable. Cyber scammers are exploiting advanced technology like AI and mobile apps while simultaneously using social engineering tactics to target the elderly. It is crucial for individuals, families, and governments to take proactive steps to protect seniors from these digital threats, including education, security measures, and legislation to hold cybercriminals accountable. By working together, we can create a safer digital environment for everyone, especially our senior citizens.

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