Have you ever received a phone call, text message or email from someone you didn’t know who tried to sell you something, give you money or promise you the world. Most of us have. Sometimes the people contacting you are legitimate but most of the time you need to keep a good head on your shoulders in case it is a scam.
According to www.scamwatch.com.au, hosted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, in 2020 Aussies lost more than $150 million to scams. That includes people aged 65-plus who have lost more than $32 million to scammers in at least 26,000 incidents. And that is just the incidents that are reported. Sadly, the true figures will be much higher.
Popular scams at the moment include fake text messages or email letters supposedly from government departments enticing you to click on a malicious link to COVID-19 information. Another around Christmas was fake parcel delivery scams claiming you have an undelivered package. Clicking on links or attachments jeopardises your privacy.
Older Australians may also be more susceptible to door-to-door and home maintenance scams. While many legitimate businesses sell things door-to-door, these scams generally involve promoting goods and services that are of poor quality, or are not delivered. Scammers may try and sell you gardening or roofing services, and then bill you for additional work that you did not agree to. Sometimes they may pretend to conduct a survey so they can get your personal details, or disguise their sales pitch until they have been talking to you for a while and earned your trust
Find information below on the types of scams you might come across, what to do if you are scammed and key things to help you avoid a scam.
COMMON SCAMS TARGETING OLDER AUSTRALIANS
** Inheritance scams: Offer the false promise of an inheritance to trick you into parting with your money or sharing your bank or credit card details.
** Rebate scams: Try to convince you that you are entitled to a rebate or reimbursement from the government, a bank or trusted organisation.
** Unexpected prize & lottery scams: Ask you to pay a fee in order to claim your prize or winnings from a competition or lottery you never entered.
** Dating & romance: Take advantage of people looking for romantic partners, often via dating websites, apps or social media by pretending to be prospective companions. They play on emotional triggers to get you to provide money, gifts or personal details.
** Investment scams: Aim to get you to part with money on the promise of a questionable financial opportunity.
TIPS TO AVOID A SCAM
Often older Australians have more money and accumulated wealth than younger people, making them an attractive target for a scammer. Older Australians may also be seen by scammers as generally less internet and computer savvy or less familiar with new technology. But you can learn to protect yourself against scammers.
** Don’t be pressured into making a decision. Scammers often try to create a sense of urgency through short deadlines, fake emergencies or threats of legal action.
** Be suspicious of requests for money – even if they sound or look official. Government departments will never contact you asking for money upfront in order to claim a rebate.
** Scammers will often ask you to use an unusual payment method, including preloaded debit cards, gift cards, iTunes cards or virtual currency such as Bitcoin.
** Do not open suspicious text messages, pop-up windows or click on links or attachments in emails and text messages. Delete them instead.
** Don’t respond to phone calls about your computer asking for remote access. Hang up. Scammers will often ask you to turn on your computer to fix a problem or install a free upgrade, which is actually a virus which will give them your passwords and personal details.
** Keep your personal details, mobile devices and computers secure. Put a lock on your mailbox and shred your bills and other important documents before throwing them out. Keep your passwords and pin numbers in a safe place.
** Verify the identity of the contact by calling the relevant organisation directly – find them through an independent source such as a phone book or online search. Do not use the contact details provided in the message sent to you.
** Don’t respond to phone calls or emails offering financial advice or opportunities – just hang up or delete the email.
** Always do your own research before you invest money and check the company or scheme is licensed on ASIC’s MoneySmart website.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE BEEN SCAMMED
Report a scam to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission by using its website www.scamwatch.gov.au You may be encouraged to include the details of the scam contact you received, eg, email or phone number.
If you have been threatened, assaulted or had your property stolen, contact your local police.
If you think you have provided personal details to a scammer contact your bank, financial institution or other relevant agencies immediately.
You can also contact iDcare – a free government-funded service which will help you . Visit the iDcare website at www.idcare.org or phone 1300 432 273.