Tech advances have enabled people to access more information, however, that also gives rise to tech scams. Read on to learn how to get wise on current tech scams.
Tech advances in the past couple of decades have enabled people to access more information at the touch of a button or a swipe of a screen. Even seniors may relish the chance to learn new ways to keep in touch with loved ones. However, that also gives rise to tech scams using technology to hoodwink the elderly at will. It is now up to the elderly to fight another battle: using wisdom and experience to avoid that pitfall.
Types of tech scams
- Phishing. Phishing scams are based on calls or texts from supposed authorities asking for personal information, with the texts including clickable links. A derivative, the SIM swap, goes further by cataloguing a victim’s number and asking their telco provider to change out their number for a new SIM – but the scammer will get it instead of the victim. This sadly results in the victim being locked out of accounts where their original number was used.
- Hi Mum / Dad. The “Hi Mum / Dad” scam is based on a text message sent by a purported loved one from an unknown number, claiming that they lost their phone and are now texting from a different phone and number. If the conversation took off, the talks may delve into banking details and payment because the other person on the line needs some data for their apps and would ask to be furnished the above ASAP. The NSW Police raised this alarm last month and warned that other people across Australia may be targeted.
- Contests / inheritance. Some scammers run the gimmick of sending emails/text messages claiming that the recipient won a competition or are named beneficiaries of some deceased person’s inheritance. The scammer would claim that to receive the prize or inheritance, the person must wire in a certain amount of money to process the transfer of funds. This inadvertently exposes your bank accounts for possible fraud.
- Romance / Dating. Romance/dating scams often prey on single people who may be in need for companionship – in some cases, this includes seniors whose partner recently passed on or left them. Contact is often initiated on social media networks/apps, dating sites, and online forums, where the scammer sets up a fake account to lure in potential victims. The scammer may try to reel in the victim with frequent expressions of love and longing to be together, which could escalate into plans to travel somewhere to meet or arrange some sort of financial exchange. The danger is worse if the scammer is actually located in another country. Crime Stoppers cited data from ACCC Scamwatch noting that Australians lost over $37m to dating/romance scams in 2020.
- AFP / ATO scams. Scammers may try to impersonate an officer of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) or the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) by calling a potential victim and spinning stories about the person’s bank account being under suspicion of links to criminal activity. The only way they claim that the links may be prosecuted or go away is for the victim to deposit money in a nominated account or to possibly arrange a handover under threat of “arrest.”
- COVID-19. The pandemic also spawned a raft of scams to take advantage of public uncertainty over the virus. The ACCC noted that these scams include offers for early access to vaccines, retail vouchers, and threats to be locked out of super accounts.
- Tradies. Some horror stories have emerged of seniors being visited by purported tradies offering on-site services – even though they never arranged for anything at all.
- Investment. Certain scams are premised on the victim being cold-called by a certain person offering new investment projects with low-risk but unreasonable rates of return. Seniors are particularly vulnerable here, especially if they no longer draw an income and are careful of their finances.
- Charities. Some scammers set up charitable organisations with websites, emails and phone numbers attached to establish an air of authority and purpose. The content they post would even attempt to appeal to human nature with positive stories.
- Flubot. The Flubot scam is centred on text notifications about missed calls, photo uploads, and delivery updates, with an attached link to access them.
- If you receive a text message on your phone detailing anything with a matching link attached, delete it without EVER clicking on the link.
- Make sure your email has spam filters enabled; this will help sort out the real email from spam. Some emails may have the look and feel of legitimate notices, but if they have attachments, delete the entire email immediately, as those attachments may be spyware, or programs with malicious codes.
- Never send personal or banking details – especially credit card and account numbers – over the phone or email. You must personally visit your bank for remedies if you have somehow given the details by accident. Change all the passwords for your accounts immediately. This would prevent fraudulent activities such as lines of credit drawn in your name.
- Do not entertain any person you never specifically called in.
- If any scammers persist in contacting you, compile your evidence and submit it to the ACCC Scamwatch and the Australian Cyber Security Centre.
- Remain in communication with your family members and alert them of your situation.
- Any charity/investment organisation that may have contacted you out of the blue should be verified as well through the ASIC and ACNC Charity Register for further information. Do not engage the agents any more.
- Seek assistance from IDCARE in the event some scams are taking advantage of your identity.
As many of the scams are centred on text messages, the ACMA and Comms Alliance are partnering to implement new rules on telcos to combat text-messaging scams. They include obligating telcos to block numbers running those scams and report the activity to the authorities. The rules are coupled with ACMA’s new rules to combat SIM-swap scams. The changes to the rules came just as Scamwatch reported a 188 per cent year-on-year increase in text-scam damage from $2.3m in H1 2021 to $6.5m for the first six months this year.
While planning for your retirement is a long-term effort, ample prudence is needed to ensure things remain comfortable and secure for you and your loved ones.
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