Scams that target seniors are costing us millions 44



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We can be the victim of a scam, and we don’t need to be particularly naive or unassuming either. Scams can be embedded into so many areas of our lives – all with one main aim: to take our money.

Us over 60s are often the target of scams, due to our trusting nature and also our vulnerability. If there’s a chance to get more money to supplement our paltry pension, sometimes we can lunge at the chance without thinking. We’ve all heard of the Nigerian scams, but what is the cost to Australians?

In the US, senior financial abuse costs $36 billion annually, and here, it is thought to be a figure in the hundreds of millions. Neither is encouraging and shows that there is still a huge problem. A study showed that seniors who lost $20 or more to scams were more likely to lose an average of $2,000 a year to other scams, and 1.8 million Australians over 55 are being exposed to scams every year.

Clearly, taking money from over 55s is a big business, and according to a Met Life report, “Losses are significant, with actual dollars lost not the only losses incurred”. People have lost their homes, their dignity and their cherished independence thanks to scams.

The real figure of how many scams take place in Australia every year is unknown because some do not report a scam when they are targeted. It’s often thought that it is better to just remove yourself from the situation, however it is helpful for Government organisations such as ScamWatch to be aware of any scam you come into contact with.

And it’s not just the usual money scam where you’re asked to give a small amount to be able to access a much larger sum, there are more and more emotional scams going around, in particular ‘love’ scams where seniors are targeted on online dating websites. According to ScamWatch’s website, dating and romance scams “try to lower your defences by appealing to your romantic or compassionate side. They play on emotional triggers to get you to provide money, gifts or personal details.

It’s also important to dispel myths about online scams, as believing the below could make you vulnerable to scams:

1. All companies, businesses and organisations are legitimate and okay because they are all vetted and approved by the government or some other authority.

False: Consumer protection agencies can only do so much. While they are constantly on the look-out for dodgy operators, some scams only come to their attention when people report them.

2. Internet websites are all legitimate, or that it is difficult to set up a website.

False: It is quite easy and cheap to set up a professional-looking website that is run from outside Australia. A scam website could be used to sell a dodgy product, or it could be easily made to resemble a genuine website, like a bank or credit union website. These websites are often only ‘live’ for a few days— but that is enough time to trick people into giving up their credit card details or other personal information. (Source: ScamWatch)

ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard told Today Tonight that scammers are developing trusting relationships better than ever and “even within the ACCC, we often look at something and think it is real, but really is a scam”.

Russell Smith of the Australian Institute of Criminology said that he has seen “instances of people who have got disabilities – deaf people – have a great reliance on computers, they have been defrauded and often the scammer will pretend to be a disabled person as well”.

We’re from a different era, we never saw this sort of thing and so it is hard to imagine why any person would do this to a good person. But the fact of the matter is that a scam could target you at any time, no matter who you are.

So how can you protect yourself from scams, particularly those aimed at seniors?

Never respond to mail from someone you don’t know – even if the letter says you’ve won money, you have a parcel you never ordered or is from a long lost relative.

Don’t give away personal information on calls – there has been a scam going around in recent years where “Microsoft” has called to say you have a problem with your PC and you need to pay for it. Simply hang up.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is – you probably didn’t win the lottery without entering, and that chain letter doesn’t need to be forwarded on to save your life, and that iPad is not free.

Have you or someone you know ever been the victim of a scam? What happened? How have you or they be more careful since? 

Starts at 60 Writers

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

  1. Everyone I know is to smart to be scammed

    10 REPLY
    • Bindy.
      Except the LNP believers. Abbott is scamming them all the time and they fall for it over and over. LOL

    • you guys are obsessed with political propaganda. Should I say possessed…. Try seeing the big picture. Try help save the closure of hospitals in south Australia the closing of emergency departments in major hospitals…go volunteer in save the children.. Because they need your help.

      1 REPLY
      • Cracks me up when you say you are based in Swaziland – that’s where a lot of the scammers come from!

    • Diane.
      We do volunteer work in the community. Just because we don’t brag about it doesn’t mean we don’t do it.

    • I had 3 phone calls in a week all at 5pm , I told them I was not here but on the third time I asked who they were and they said Australian Federal Government, when I told them I did not believe them they hung up, I called Crime watch to report this but they go home at 5pm . no wonder the Scams ring after 5pm

  2. If I don’t know who the email is from or if it looks dodgy I trash it, I have not fallen for any scams to date and hope I never will

  3. Scamming can happen away from your computer… Can happen over the phone at your front door down the street in the stores anywhere . scammers are politicians, salesmen, agents that convince you wrong is right can sell you worthless information or products… It not just computer..

  4. Don’t. use credit card in phone or in mail. Once bitten. Twice shy they say. No door to door salesmen either.never answer any email that I don’t recognise. Cautious , you bet.

    2 REPLY
  5. I have an elderly friend living close-by who was scammed for $3,000 recently by these scummers/scammers. She gave out personal information after they took control of her computer and said it would cost money to fix it. They phoned first asking for info which she sadly unwittingly gave.

  6. I’ve always prided on myself on recognizing a scam, but, having to wait three weeks to have a new modem set up, I was on the phone daily from Telstra who finally got it sorted, I was expecting a call from Telstra (they said they would) just to make sure everything was still working ok! So when the phone rang the next day, I got sucked in, big time, fortunately the bank was onto it very quick, but they shut my computer down which I’ve had to pay nearly $200 to get fixed, plus somehow they hacked my FB with sexual remarks about me which fortunately my son saw and was able get rid of it, but the stress of it all has made me very sceptic now, fortunately no money was involved, just new passwords etc. so now it’s no to everything and anybody!

    3 REPLY
    • Yes I am thank you, really stressed me out though, and I felt stupid, but something within Telstra doesn’t seem right either!

    • Every time I have dealt with Telstra, they have sent me an email with a contact link. The same person then rings me back. But I still insist that they give me my birthdate as they will have it on record. And also my account number

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