Barbara Kim Stanton
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

AARP Hawai‘i outreach director Jackie Boland has kids who love to play with the iPad and who occasionally download apps they shouldn’t.

So when she got an email that appeared to be from Apple, asking her to open an attachment to dispute the purchase of an app by clicking on a link, she almost did it.

“I trust Apple’s brand a lot,” Jackie said. “And, I had never heard of any scams involving the Apple name. But my daughter assured me that she didn’t download anything.”

Jackie called Apple and found out that the email was a scam.

If Jackie, who plans anti-scam workshops for AARP Hawai‘i, can come that close to being scammed online, it just goes to show you that scammers are clever and inventive enough to scam anybody.

From impersonating government officials to using brands you trust to answering a survey on Facebook, cybercriminals are constantly coming up with new ways to take your identity, your data and your money.

To help you protect yourself and your family from online criminals, AARP Hawai‘i is holding free, “Protect Yourself from Cyber Scams” seminars on O‘ahu, Maui, the Big Island of Hawai‘i and Kaua‘i in May. The featured speaker is Will Bales, the supervising special agent for the FBI Honolulu Cyber Division.

Bales will talk about the FBI’S work on cyber security and provide tips on how to avoid cyber scams so that you can protect your data, your identity and your money. AARP Hawai‘i will profile some common online scams such as the romance scam, tech scams and cyber blackmail. They’ll also teach you how to fight back against cyber criminals.

When it comes to phishing emails, like the one Jackie nearly fell for, AARP’s experts advise you to be wary of any requests that you click a link, open an attachment or reply with personal or financial information to get a prize or resolve a problem.

Other signs that an email may be a scam include a “Dear Customer” greeting — legitimate communications are more likely to include your name. Beware also of offers of free products, cheap or free travel deals, a sweepstakes prize or other financial windfall; threats of legal action or of your account being frozen if you don’t act immediately; vague or generic language, such as “payment issue;” and spelling or grammatical errors (many scammers are in foreign countries).

For more information on protecting yourself from scams, go to AARP’s Fraud Watch Network website at aarp.org/Fraud or call 1-877-908-3360 to report a scam and warn others.

AARP Hawai‘i’s “Save Yourself from Cyber Scams” seminars will be held:

• Thursday, May 16, noon at Kaua‘i Community College in Lïhu‘e;

• Saturday, May 18, 9 a.m., at the Ala Moana Hotel in Honolulu;

• Tuesday, May 21, 9:30 a.m. at The Arc of Hilo;

• Tuesday, May 21, 5:30 p.m. at Humpy’s Big Island Ale House in Kona;

• Thursday, May 23, 6 p.m. at the J. Walter Cameron Center in Wailuku, Maui.

Call 1-877-926-8300 to register or go to aarp.org/HI.

Barbara Kim Stanton has been the state director of AARP Hawai‘i since 2005. She writes about living a life of real possibilities, where age is not a limit and experience equals wisdom.

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