Investment scams, dating and romance rip-offs and fraudsters illegally accessing computers remotely are the three most common types of scams striking people aged over 55.
The latest Targeting Scams report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission found that this age group has also reported the most losses — more than $45 million last year.
Over-65s reported more scams in 2018 than any other age group.
ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said some scammers targeted older people because they were more likely to have a landline and pick up the phone during the day.
“That means they get much greater exposure to scams,” she said.
“Dating and romance scammers target the older demographic, who are more likely to have money and be potentially lonely.”
And low interest rates for bank deposits in recent years have encouraged fraudsters to promote investment scams to people with money.
“I think social media and apps have really helped scammers target older people. With social media you can lurk and stalk if people don’t have good privacy settings,” Ms Rickard said.
She said consumers could protect themselves by:
• Never giving anyone remote access to their computers, no matter where they said they were from, because scammers often hid behind trusted names.
• Being wary about dealing with any strangers they had not met face-to-face.
• Visiting the scamwatch.gov.au website for information and updates.
• Remembering that no government department or reputable business would demand payment in cryptocurrency or gift cards.
• Never sending money to people they had met online but not in person.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s moneysmart.gov.au website also has good information about defending yourself.
ASIC’s senior executive leader for financial capability, Laura Higgins, said older Australians could find it more difficult to recover from financial losses caused by scams “which is the great heartache”.
Ms Higgins said people should avoid entering any arrangements with strangers over the phone, especially cold callers.
“If people are trying to sell you something over the phone, saying ‘no thankyou’ and hanging up is the right thing to do,” she said.
“Protect your personal information — don’t share it. Stay on top of your bank and credit card statements and look for surprising transactions. And learn about online privacy and security settings around websites.”
“Look at the companies-you-should-not-deal-with list on moneysmart.gov.au and share information with your friend and networks.”
Fraud Watch is presented in partnership with The Commonwealth Bank.
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