It’s a sad fact of life that many “scammers” (which is a modern-day word for crooks and thieves) target people they believe to be “elderly”.
This is absolutely nothing to do with them believing that anyone over 50 is daft or senile. It’s much subtler than that.
You see these creatures pry on older people because we grew up in a more innocent age. There was no internet, PCs and even phones were a comparative rarity. Some, of course, would argue that there were fewer crooks around too.
That means older people are likely to be more off-guard to scams involving telephone calls and the internet. In the past, you went down to your bank branch and conducted your business with someone you knew and face-to-face. You could usually believe what they told you.
Today, that world is close to disappearing and vast amounts of finance is conducted on the phone or internet. This isn’t a world older people are always necessarily fully comfortable in and that makes them vulnerable.
That’s why YOU could be a target.
Doubt that? Well, Australians in 2017 lost around $340 MILLION to scams associated with phone calls and internet fraud.
Bogus phone calls
There are many different scams out there and here we can only deal with one – that is the fake phone call pretending to be from a company you might know and trust.
It usually works along the lines of:
- you’ll get a call claiming to be from a company you’ve heard of or already have dealings with;
- they’ll seemingly know a little about you and then say that “a problem has arisen” in your account or the security of your service etc. A variation on that is claiming that they’re from “Microsoft” (or someone similar) and have discovered a problem on your PC;
- they may then ask you to confirm your id and passwords for something like your internet banking service so they can “sort out the problem”;
- a variation on that entails asking you to go onto your PC and connect to their site so they can check something on your system;
- some may ask you to electronically send money somewhere to resolve an overdraft or similar – though this is slightly rarer these days.
If you comply, one of two things will happen;
- your bank account will be emptied;
- you’ll be tricked into turning over control of your PC to technical pirates. After that, anything can happen including you not regaining control of it until you pay them a ransom.
Recognising a bogus call – the myths
Remember that these crooks can be exceptionally convincing when trying to persuade you to part with your details or to do what they want. They are not stupid – in fact, many are well educated.
So, be on your guard. There are some other myths about these calls and how to identify them:
- “they always have foreign accents”.
No, they don’t. While it is true that large numbers of such calls originate in Africa and the Indian Sub-Continent, the callers may well have impeccable Aussie or often British accents;
- “they’re ignorant of local events”.
No, they’re not. They may do extensive research about their target geographic areas and they could easily convince you they’ve lived in your town all their life;
- “they know nothing about you personally”.
Often this is equally totally wrong.
The amount of information held about you online is staggering and much of it is relatively easily accessible. They may know your name and address, your phone number (obviously), your email id, how many children you have, where you bank and even your bank account number. None of those things are “secret” as such and they mean absolutely nothing if a caller quotes them to you.
Top tips for identifying fake phone calls
What you should do is:
- Be suspicious of all phone calls you receive unless they’re from friends and family you instantly recognise!
- If the call sounds genuine, ask for a phone number you can call them back on – don’t trust any “caller id” numbers displayed on your phone. Ask for their name too. If they’re reluctant to provide either – hang up immediately!
- If they offer a phone number, look it up on the internet before calling and check if it matches the company they claim it to be. Don’t assume because it’s a local Australian number that it is really in Australia! Calls can be automatically re-routed overseas.
- also make 100% sure to check that number by independently calling the head office of the company they’re claiming to be.
So, if they claim they’re say from “Telstra Perth” then look up the number for the Head Office of Telstra separately on the internet, call them and ask for their security department. Give them the name and phone number you were given and ask them to verify it. If they do, you can call the original number back with confidence. If they don’t, inform them that a scam is underway using their company’s name falsely.
- No bona-fide company would ever call you and ask you to divulge things like your ids and passwords over the phone. Hang up if the caller does so.
- Technical support companies will never spontaneously call you to say that there is a problem with your connection or account and ask for you to connect to them so that they can “investigate”. They might ask you to do so if YOU initiated a call to them to say there was a problem (if you can reach them that is!).
- Banks will never spontaneously call you to ask you to confirm your confidential information or to send them money immediately online.
These are just a few helpful tips. Keep your guard up!