Sydney residential aged care advice and consulting

Financial Scams on the increase

22 Nov 2021
Scammers have stolen millions from older Australians in 2021

You receive a strange phone call from an unknown number. On the other end of the line is an automated voice that delivers an urgent warning saying that your internet will be disconnected in 24 hours. Panicked, you dial a keypad number and are met with an authoritative voice claiming to be from the NBN who insists that you that hand over your bank details before it is too late. Weeks later, your bank contacts you to confirm that tens of thousands of dollars is missing from your account.
This robocall is just one type of scam targeting vulnerable Australians, resulting in monumental losses during the pandemic. According to Scamwatch, Australians lost a total of $1.4 million from NBN-related scams this year, a 40 per cent increase from 2020. Older adults have taken the biggest hit, with people over 65 losing $49.1 million to phone fraud between February and September 2021.
Besides the robocall scam, some of the newer tactics have thieves calling to claim that someone’s device has been accessed by hackers, and asking for internal access in order to stop them
“That's a really awful scam because as soon as someone's granted up access to your computer, they can get into your accounts,” said NBN spokesperson Jane McNamara. 
“They'll often try and get you to bring up things, and log into your accounts in real-time while they're monitoring your device, and then that allows them access to all sorts of personal and financial information.”
The pandemic has created the perfect storm for phone scammers, with more people online and at home feeling anxious than ever before. Scamwatch data has confirmed that Victorians lost the most amount of money to phone fraud this year, taking up to $479,779 in losses. 
Keeping up to date with the type of phone scams can be difficult, as scammers continue to update and refine their strategies. 
“It's definitely preying on the vulnerable people and people that might not understand certain things,” said McNamara. 
The best way to protect yourself is to remember that NBN will never call and ask to access your computer, or advise that you're going to be disconnected. 
“Immediately hang up, do not engage with these calls, do not share your financial information or personal details with an unsolicited caller, or a 'door-knocker', trying to seek payment for a service over the NBN network,” said McNamara.
“Lastly, if in doubt, hang up and call your phone or internet provider on their official customer service centre number to check if the call was legitimate.”
Old age no barrier to scam protection
To combat the rise in scam phone calls, NBN has joined forces with the Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association (ASCCA) to help educate older people on how to protect themselves. The initiative, ScamFit, has launched an online campaign and run a series of webinars designed to equip older adults with information on how to identify and avoid potential scams.
“We are an age group that is trusting, and if people say ‘I’ll help you’ we often think that they will,” said ASCCA president and digital advocate Nan Bosler.
“It’s not easy for older people who have a sense of politeness, and we need to make it a golden rule that we never give information about our financial or personal details.”
Bosler, who founded ASCCA in 1997, said that many older adults are reluctant to report being scammed due to feelings of shame or embarrassment. To make matters worse, they will often be deterred altogether from being online.
“It’s really distressing,” she said.
“Their motivation is lessened, their confidence is gone ablaze, and they feel like they have to start all over again.”
A rapid shift online during COVID-19 lockdown has also amplified the growing digital divide between generations. Although people aged over 60 are spending more time on the internet, older Australians are still unequipped with the skills to access to and navigate digital tools. 
The recent Digital Exclusion Index Report (ADII) showed that many older adults felt like they were unable to swap out face-to-face interactions with digital alternatives, putting them at greater risk of social isolation and loneliness.
“I think the greatest barrier is a lack of confidence and motivation,” said Bosler.
“Seniors learn best when they’re in a non-threatening, friendly environment and can get assistance from their peers.”
Seeking out a family member or finding a local senior’s computer club, Bosler said, are the some of best ways that older people can learn how to be digitally savvy. For those who don’t have access to that kind of support, a number of online and in-person training modules are also available, including the government’s ‘Be Connected’ program. 
Bosler encourages older people living in outer communities to contact the ASCCA to start up a senior computer club inside their own area. 
“People underestimate older Australians, especially when it comes to technology,” she said.
“Given the right skills and training there’s no reason why we older Australian’s can’t arm ourselves against scammers, and maybe even help younger Aussie’s learn a thing or two.”
CREDIT: Eleanor Campbell Aged Care Insite