Scammers use various means of communication to target their victims from emails to letters, phone calls and text messages. The elderly are particularly susceptible because they are not as tech savvy, often have higher savings, can be isolated and gullible or naïve. Scammers are experts at gaining the trust of the elderly and then confusing them. It’s important to be aware and to know how to protect your elderly loved ones.
Tactics Scammers Use:
- Appear helpful to gain trust, and then make the person feel inclined to return the favour.
- Pretend to be associated with a credible company, government department or charity to fake legitimacy.
- Act friendly, approachable & sympathetic, so the victim feels the scammer is “on their side”.
- Instil a fear or a sense of urgency so the victim doesn’t have the time to think or act rationally.
- Be ambiguous about the subject at hand and change it throughout the conversation to distract and confuse the victim.
Some common scams:
Internet and Email Scams
Internet Emails often promise big returns for a small investment and can request a small amount paid upfront for admin fees or “shipping and handling” to receive goods or to redeem a bigger cash amount.
The main objective is to gain the victims personal details and passwords. The scammer creates an email address and template that looks like the official one they are pretending to represent. A link is provided to click on that will then request BSB and Account details to be able to gain access to the victim’s accounts.
Reverse Mortgage Scam
Not all “financial institutions” are the real deal. The elderly can fall prey to a scam artist who proposes a reverse mortgage and then steals the equity.
These scams prey on the goodwill of a victim. A fake story or Charity is made up and then a story is shared over the phone or via email that requests funds. This scam can often be used to steal someone’s identity.
Using a combination of high pressure and sneaky sales tactics the scam artist will con the victim often saying “I’m in the area today and noticed your roof needs fixing or you have leaking gutters and if you don’t get this fixed, your home will be at serious risk”.
Signing up to take advantage of for instance a free 14-day trial of a product or service. If you don’t cancel this after the 14 days you could be charged and often it is difficult to find where to opt out.
Preventing the elderly being scammed
- Be Suspicious and on-guard. Assume any cold calls, unsolicited letters and emails that promise financial and other benefits don’t have good intentions, and work back from there. It is better to be sceptical than trusting when receiving unexpected communication via these avenues.
- Provide the elderly with information about common scams and how they operate. Discuss warning signs and red flags to watch out for.
- Ask questions and seek further Information. Do some research yourself, even if just a google search for a Website, name, address and phone number of a company.
- Maintain regular contact with your elderly loved ones. Regular communication helps you to stay informed about their activities and any potential scams they may have encountered.
- Never ever give out personal information online or on the phone. A bank will never send an email requesting your password, or a link for you to verify information.
- Don’t make hasty decisions. Never sign up immediately. Take time to think a decision through if you are handing over money to an unknow source.
- Familiarise yourself with Online Safety. Only buy from reputable Websites, and ensure your email spam settings are set to the highest level. Don’t just pay online, make a call to the company independently to check the invoice or payment request is genuine and ask for their banking and payment details via the phone.
- Invest carefully! Check with your Financial Advisor or a trusted Solicitor or Lawyer before handing over your hard-earned money for any Investment.
- Protect others! If you or a loved one think you have been scammed, report it to the Police, Bank and other relevant Government agencies, so others don’t suffer the same fate and it can be tracked and stopped.
- If you have access to, or oversee an elderly person’s finances, keep an eye on withdrawals & transfers in their financial accounts. Review bills, bank statements and other financial documents to identify any irregularities.
- Implement Caller ID and Call Blocking. Teach the elderly how to block unwanted callers and numbers on their devices to prevent repeated scam calls.
- Encourage them to be skeptical of pop-up advertisements, beware of downloading unknown attachments and avoid clicking on links.
- Help your loved one to create strong and unique passwords for their online accounts, emphasising the importance of using a combination of letters, numbers and special characters.
- Encourage the use of password management tools to securely store and manage their passwords.
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that scammers have become extremely sophisticated in their operations and will continue to target the elderly. If an offer sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Whilst you can’t cover or know about every scam, identifying and putting safety strategies in place to protect your elderly loved one from scammers is going to give you and them a better peace of mind. Prevention and education are crucial in combating scams. By providing support and guidance, we can empower our elderly to protect themselves and reduce the risk of falling victim to scams.
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