Seniors scam alert

Online scams targeting older Australians and how to avoid them.

Australians aged 55 and over lost more than $53.4 million dollars to scammers in 2019, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Targeting Scams report.

The report revealed older Australians were most frequently targeted by online dating and romance, investment and hacking scams.

ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said reporting a scam could help prevent others from losing money or having their personal information stolen.

“We want to encourage all community groups to report to Scamwatch and not feel embarrassed or ashamed if they have been a victim of a scam,” Ms Rickard said.

“If you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank immediately and if you have any concerns about your safety, contact the police.”

Here are some of the online scams targeting older Australians and how to avoid them.

Dating and romance scams

What is it?

Scammers taking advantage of people looking for love. Australians lost more than $28.6 million to dating and romance scams in 2019. 

How does it work?

Scammers create a fake profile on dating sites and social media. They gain your trust and profess their love for you but you’re never able to meet them in person. They may ask you for money to travel to meet you but no matter how much you send them they always have an excuse for not meeting up. 

How can I avoid it?

Don’t send money to anyone you meet online and be wary if your love interest’s story changes.

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Investment scams

What is it?

Scammers trick you into investments that are too good to be true. Australians lost more than $61 million to investment scams in 2019, which can include cryptocurrency and fake celebrity endorsements.

How does it work?

Investment scams come in many forms including superannuation schemes, business ventures or buying shares. Scammers offer a risk-free, high-return investment opportunity and often have professional looking brochures and websites. You may be told your investment is doing well and be encouraged to invest more money. Most of these schemes don’t work and buyers are unable to get their money back.

How can I avoid it?

Beware of a promise of high returns with little or no risk and always check with a reputable financial advisor before investing.

Hacking

What is it?

Hacking occurs when scammers use technology to break into a computer, mobile device or network. Australians lost more than $5.1 million to hackers in 2019.

How does it work?

There are many different kinds of hacking scams including phishing, remote access and malware. Once scammers have hacked your computer or mobile device, they can access your personal information, change your passwords and restrict access to your computer.

  • Remote access – You receive a phone call from a person claiming to be from your internet provider who says your computer is infected by viruses. If you allow them to remotely access your computer, they can steal your personal information and install malware. They may try to convince you to purchase expensive antivirus software.
  • Malware and ransomware – Malware tricks you into installing software that allows scammers to access your computer files and personal information. Ransomware will demand payment to “unlock” your computer files.

How can I avoid it?

Only buy a computer and anti-virus software from a reputable source. Choose strong passwords and don’t open and attachments or click on links in messages from strangers.

If you think you have provided your account details, passport, tax file number, licence, Medicare or other personal identification details to a scammer, contact your bank immediately.

To find out more about how to bank safely online, visit RACQ’s Financial Wellbeing hub.

The information has been prepared for general information purposes. Any advice is general advice and does not take into account any person’s particular investment objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives, financial situations and needs