27 July 2016

Seniors scammed $21 million

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Last year Australians aged 55 years and over lost $21 million to scammers.

The majority of these scams were related to online dating and investment, comprising $12 million in lost money.

My grandmother is 77 years old and as technologically illiterate as one would expect of someone born in the 1930s (when I told her there was a Pokémon in her kitchen she asked who put it there).

You can imagine her distress when she was called by someone claiming to be from the ‘Australian Taxation Office’ telling her that a warrant had been issued for her son’s arrest due to overdue unpaid fees.

Panic set in and, through tears, she argued in bewilderment that there must be some mistake. They proceeded to cite his tax number, bill numbers and dates. Now convinced, my grandmother asked if there was anything she could do.

Without hesitating they replied, “You can transfer us $10,000.”

By some miracle my uncle arrived before any monetary exchange could occur and they promptly reported the incident to the police.

Gen Y and X have grown up well aware of both the opportunities and risks that digital platforms bring. Scams instead target our grandparents and some of our parents, those who, in their own words, grew up with “nothing more than a stick” to keep them entertained.

It’s our turn to sit down with our parents and grandparents and make sure they know how to avoid falling victim to a scam. This is what to tell them:

  • Don’t let anyone pressure you into making a decision


Like the above situation with my dear old grandma, scammers often try to create a sense of urgency. This might be by threatening legal action or faking emergencies. If anything, take the details and get off the phone.

  • Ask someone else


Getting a second opinion is never a bad idea. Encourage them to ask for your opinion or that of a trusted friend.

  • Don’t respond to emails from people you don’t know


Scam artists are exactly that- artists. They craft stories of poverty, abuse and violence designed to pluck at the heart strings- and wallet. It’s important that you separate yourself from the story with logic. How did they get your email address? If they’re living in poverty, how have they even sent the email?

  • If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.


Did your twice removed third cousin from Nepal suddenly die and leave his fortune to you? Did you suddenly win the lottery even though you never bought a ticket? Listen to your gut instinct; it’s too good to be true.


Most importantly, if your friend or loved one has fallen victim to a scam they need to report it to the ACCC or police. 

Claire Dowler is a Conference Producer with Akolade. She recently graduated with a double degree: a Bachelor of Journalism and a Bachelor of Media and Communications Studies majoring in International Communication. Claire minored in sarcasm and puns.

A ballroom-dancer who collects salt and pepper shakers and volunteers for animal rescue, you might say Claire has eclectic interests.

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