The top 6 scams targeting seniors and how to avoid them 83



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You may think that you could never become the victim of a scam, but as scammers become more and more savvy and believable, you could be at risk without knowing it.

Scammers and identity thieves tend to prey the most vulnerable in society, and that sadly happens to be over 60s. We lost a combined total of $80 million last year to scammers, so it is still a huge problem in Australia and the world.

Here’s 6 of the top scams currently targeting seniors and how to avoid them.

Advance fee fraud

According to the ACCC’s Scamwatch, advance fee fraud is the most common scam around, accounting for more than half of the scams reported.

It is the type of scam where a scammer requests fees or personal information upfront in return for goods, services, money or rewards that they never supply. An example is the Nigerian 419 scamthat has been circulating for years: a scammer offers you a reward in exchange for helping transfer money overseas. It sounds so simple: all you have to do is give your bank account details and pay fees or taxes and then you’ll inherit a fortune. Clearly, these are ruses just to take your money, but they aren’t always as obvious.

The fake inheritance scam, where a scammer claims that you have been left a huge inheritance from a long-lost relative, is also common.

How to protect yourself:

  • Avoid arrangements with strangers who request upfront payment for anything.
  • Copy the exact wording of the offer and paste in Google – you’ll see straight away if it’s a scam
  • Don’t open suspicious or unsolicited emails…just delete them.

“ATO” Calls

It’s tax time, so it doesn’t seem out of the ordinary for ATO to want to call you. But one scam that has cropped up this July is the ATO scam, where a serious voice on the other end tell you they’re form the Australian Taxation Office, and that you owe them money.

They demand payment immediately and threaten to report you if you don’t.

How to protect yourself:

  • Know that if the ATO owes you a refund or you owe them, they will send a letter to you. They will never call and demand money
  • If you’re really worried that you owe money, contact them.


Job and employment opportunities

It’s a common scenario: you’ve been looking for a job for a while and aren’t yet able to retire. You apply for every job you see and check your emails in hope every day. Then one day, you’re sent a job opportunity you simply can’t resist! It promises big income for little work.

Job and employment scams offer you to work from home or set up and invest in a ‘business opportunity’ with the promise of a job, high salary or large investment return following initial upfront payments.

They say these payments may be for a ‘business plan’, training course, software, uniforms, security clearance, taxes or fees, so you don’t immediately identify them as a scam. You might not even receive an email – these hard-to-resist offers can even show up on reputable job sites.

How to protect yourself:

  • Beware of offers or schemes claiming to guarantee income or requiring payment upfront.
  • Never agree to an offer over the phone – ask for it in writing.
  • Do your research before agreeing to any offer, and make sure to ask around, search online and check if the company is licensed using ASIC’s Australian Financial Services licensee register.
  • Many work-from-home scams are fronts for money-laundering or pyramid schemes – and both are illegal in Australia. While they may not say it, if they sound strange, they probably are.


The “Your Child/Grandchild Needs Money” Trap

Us grandparents would do anything to help our grandchild if they were in trouble, and scammers know this. One newer type of scam is the phone call that says your close relative is in trouble and needs you help. The person may tell you they’re a lawyer or representative, or even a doctor or the police.

The person assures you they can handle the money and any other personal information that they need to “help”. As with most scams of this type, the pressure is on and the scammer knows you are vulnerable and most likely upset.

How to protect yourself:

  • If there’s always a reason why you can’t speak directly to your relative or someone you know and you can never call them back, that’s a sign something is awry.
  • Never give out financial or personal information on the phone.
  • If your loved one is in jail or in the hospital and someone’s calling on their behalf, they should be able to give you details about the person’s condition, where they are, how they can be reached, and so on.


Lottery and competition scams

It can be so exciting to win something but it’s important not to get too excited until you know for sure it is legitimate.

Lottery and competition scams try to trick you into giving money upfront or your personal details in order to receive a prize from a lottery, sweepstake or competition that you never entered. The scammers typically say that you need to pay fees or taxes before your ‘winnings’ or prize can be released.

You may also have to call or SMS a premium rate phone number to claim your prize. Don’t be fooled as scammers use official-looking documents and brochures that appear to have government approval or to have come from a reputable company in order to make you feel safe.

How to protect yourself:

  • In Australia, you cannot win money in a lottery or competition unless you entered, or someone else did so on your behalf.
  • Tickets in genuine overseas lotteries can only be bought in that country.
  • A legitimate lottery does not require you to pay a fee to collect winnings.
  • Do a search online using the exact wording of the offer.
  • Think twice before calling or text messaging a phone number starting with ‘19’ – these are premium services and will cost you.


Dating scams

Perhaps one of the most sad scams out there, the dating and romance scams are prevalent and prey on lonely seniors. To someone who has little human contact, it can be the light in a dark tunnel to have an attractive person speak to them, but these are significant scams that rob people of money and happiness.

According to the ACCC, the most common dating and romance scams involve scammers creating fake profiles on legitimate dating websites. They use these profiles to try and get your money and personal details. The scammer are experts at making you gain emotional attachment so when they ask for money, it can feel like a do or die situation. These scams may be operated by experienced criminal networks and can run for months or even years.

How to protect yourself:

  • Never send money or give your personal details to someone you met online even if they are very convincing and have photos and videos
  • Avoid any arrangement with a stranger who wants money upfront
  • Use common sense to gauge whether this person really wants to speak to you or if they want money.


Tell us, have you ever been the victim of a scam? What happened? And what advice can you give?

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. No never, but I have received the emails and phone calls and they got nowhere, I am not silly enough to fall for those scams

    5 REPLY
    • I got a call a few months ago …… We’re doing a promotion on the prescription you’ve previously ordererd – Me … what prescription was that ? ……. your prescription for viagra – Me … sorry what prescription was that ….. your viagra. Needless to say, I said a few choice words before I hung up lol

    • Libbi
      I agree with you. If anyone sends me an email or phones me and I don’t know them, I string them along for awhile until they eventually hang up.
      I haven’t been caught and I doubt I ever will be.

  2. Have had them phone call wise, have found over the last few months,that they don’t like being laughed at,don’t get so many anymore 🙂

  3. Never for me too! Many phone calls each day …but no thanks..not interested! They are out there but usually the accents are telling!

  4. Only the gullible get caught. Sometimes I listen and then they get sick of my. questions and they hang up as they realise you aren’t as stupid as they had hoped. Good for a laugh if you have the time to do it. As Sharon says, they don’t like having the mickey pulled out of them.

  5. Oh dear, so the Nigerian who will marry me as soon as I send $50,000 to him to help his sick mother isn’t for real?

    4 REPLY
  6. Recently had an email from Yahoo asking for confirmation on our password. An activity search showed the email had originated in Nigeria, but not before the scammer had obtained our mailing list!

  7. You missed the telco scam. I tell them all calls to my phone are being traced. And do not call register isn’t working.

    1 REPLY
    • Do not call register only works for calls generated within Australia. If they are calling from outside Australia then they do not have to obey Australian law.

  8. Once had my internet cut off. When I chased this up, I was told that they had emailed asking me to update my details, but that I had not responded. I changed my provider.

  9. If I receive an email from somebody or a company that I don’t know it gets deleted. I have had so many now I can usually spot a spam email.

    1 REPLY
    • Instead of just deleting email right click in the inbox without opening move to junk then block sender. I have reduced the number of scam emails I was receiving to just one or two a month now instead of daily.

  10. I have caller ID on the phone and if I don’t know the number or it’s a private number I just don’t answer. Recently I had an e-mail offering me a free $150 voucher from Jetstar…but there was no Jetstar logo on the e- mail. I rang Jetstar & they informed me they did nothing without their logo on it. So I didn’t proceed with the e- mail & deleted it. Just another scam, as I dare say I would have had to supply info!

  11. They’re getting v sophisticated. I currently have 3 messages on my answer machine. ATO. AGL. AND POLICE. Scary good.

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