Scams are deliberate, despicable attempts to steal your money, either directly or indirectly, for example, by gaining access to your passwords and bank accounts. It’s a terrible abuse of trust and it often leaves victims feeling ashamed of being conned, when the shame should instead be felt by the amoral scammers. It’s particularly despicable to see vulnerable or eldery people getting scammed.
According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Australians lost a record amount of over $851 million to scammers in 2020. The true cost is likely to be much higher as not all scams are reported.
Phishing activity (tricking you into giving out personal information), in particular government impersonation scams, has thrived during the pandemic with a 75% increase.
So, which methods do the scammers use? Here were their favourites in July 2021:
- Phone calls (victims lost nearly $9m this way in July 2021)
- Social networking sites (victims lost over $5m)
- Internet (victims lost $4.4m)
- Email scams (victims lost $4.1m)
- Apps (victims lost $2.4m)
- Text messages (victims lost $1.1m).
Scams and older people
Scammers target people of all ages and backgrounds but, unfortunately, some scams are more likely to target older people.
That’s because older people are more likely to:
- Have some accumulated wealth
- Be emotionally vulnerable if they’ve recently experienced the death of a long-term partner
- Be inexperienced with internet sites or digital engagement.
Scam types and how to spot them
Scams work because they prey on deep and powerful desires for either love or money. Let’s take a look at some of the most common scams that target seniors.
Dating and romance scams
|What are they?||Dating and romance scams involve an internet relationship with someone who seems like a perfect, attentive partner but whom you never meet in real life.|
|How do they work?||They use a fake online profile to lure you in through a dating website, app or social media site. The scammer may labour for months over this relationship, going to great lengths to win your trust and affection.At some point, they’ll experience some kind of personal emergency and you’ll want to give them money. They might pretend to be:
And once you’ve sent the money, you never hear from them again.Other romance scams draw on your willingness to help them by asking you to do small favours that are actually criminal. They may ask you to:
|How do they make you feel?||Great! You feel wanted, trusted, valued. This person means so much to you.Then you feel concerned by the distressing situation they’re describing and you want to help. They mean so much to you that you’ll happily send them some money.|
|What are the warning signs?||Romance scam warning signs include someone who:
|How can you protect yourself?||Protect yourself against romance scams by:
|What are they?||Investment scams involve asking you (or your business) to put your money into something that sounds like a great opportunity but is actually a serious financial risk.|
|How do they work?||You receive repeated phone calls or emails from someone claiming to be a finance professional offering you something that sounds like a legitimate opportunity to make a substantial profit from an investment, share promotion, hot tip or early access to your superannuation.|
|How do they make you feel?||Intrigued, tempted and already wondering how you’ll spend all the money you’re about to make.|
|What are the warning signs?||Warning signs for investment scams include:
|How can you protect yourself?||Protect yourself against investment scams by:
Other money scams
|What are they?||Prize or lottery scams ask you to pay a fee to claim your winnings from a competition you never entered.
Inheritance scams dangle the false promise of an inheritance to tempt you into paying money or sharing your credit card or bank details.
Rebate scams aim to convince you that you’re entitled to a rebate from a reputable organisation.
|How do they work?||They can be quite sophisticated, often accompanied by very realistic legal paperwork for you to sign.
Basically, these scams involve someone contacting you to tell you that you’re owed some money and walking you through the steps you need to take to access your inheritance, lottery winnings or rebate.
You’ll be asked to provide some personal details to verify your identity. Then you’ll be asked to make a small payment to cover some administrative costs involved in accessing a supposedly large sum of money.
|How do they make you feel?||Trusting towards the nice person who called to tell you this good news.
Eager to get your hands on the unexpected windfall, especially when all you have to do is provide some ID and bank details.
|What are the warning signs?||
|How can you protect yourself?||
How to protect yourself or your elderly parent from getting scammed
Start by generally educating yourself about scams. Then maintain an attitude of suspicion towards any unsolicited calls, emails or intense romances.
That scepticism is often very hard for people raised in more trustworthy times who may naturally assume the best of others. Scammers are devious and skilled in building rapport to win your trust. You will probably like them and enjoy talking to them. That’s why you need to think rationally and be suspicious of any contact you didn’t initiate.
The government’s Scamwatch website is an excellent resource where you can:
- Read about the experiences of scam victims
- Subscribe to email alerts about scams
- Learn how to help a family member you suspect is being scammed
- Check specific advice for older Australians.
What to do if you’ve been scammed
If you’ve been scammed, then the first thing to remember is that you’re not alone. This horrible experience has sadly happened to many other people as you can see by the sheer amount of money that scammers are making. Though it’s natural to feel foolish for falling for it, remember that plenty of others have fallen for it too.
If you think you’ve been scammed or need to report an elderly scammer then:
- Resign yourself to the fact that you are very unlikely to get your money back. Your goal now is to limit further damage.
- Contact your bank immediately and tell them to stop your cards and block any unusual transactions from your account.
- Report the scam to the ACCC here.
- Follow Scamwatch’s detailed advice on which agencies you need to tell and where to find support.
How Focused Health Care can help
Focused Health Care provides in-home care to many older or more vulnerable people. Our carers enjoy chatting to clients and feel protective towards you. We’re always on alert for any signs that someone is taking advantage of you. So, when you tell us about phone calls or excitedly show us letters about a possible inheritance, we’ll remind you about the risks of scams and make constructive suggestions about how you can check if it’s real.
If you’d like in-home carers who have your wellbeing at heart, then contact us today.
All information is general in nature.