Scams affect everyone in our community, leading to millions of dollars of hard-earned money being stolen every year. Seniors are often seen as attractive targets for phone and web scams due to having accumulated more money over their lives compared to younger people, as well as being not usually very tech savy and home during work hours. Seniors tend to get scammed out of the most money each year.
In the United States in 2020, it was reported CNBC that 105,000 seniors got scammed for a combined $966 million.
One of the most common scams include rebate scams, where the caller will try to convince individuals that they’re entitled to a reimbursement from the government, bank or trusted organisation, which can contact you by mail, telephone, email, or text message. They will pretend to be an employee in the government, bank, etc and ask from a small admin fee cost before you receive your reimbursement, so they will ask for your banking details and try take as much as they can.
Other common scams include tech support scams, where the scammer will pretend to be calling from Microsoft and try to convince you that you have a problem with your computer. The most convincing tech support scams happen through tech support scam websites you may accidentally come across which fake system errors and may be displaying pop ups and audio messages, directing you to ring the tech support number. Once on the phone with the scammer, they will ask you to download software so they can take control of your computer to install malware and steal data from your computer. This malware will be used to find any financial information or personal details to be used as ransom.
So, how do you protect yourself against scams?
The Australian government has released information online on how to spot a scam, how to protect yourself, educational resources and information on how to get help.
How to spot a scam
• pretend to be from an organisation you trust and ask for your personal details in a call or a text
• say that you have won a prize or there’s money waiting for you
• use logos and copy real text messages to look legitimate
• disguise their number/s, to make it look like they’re calling from somewhere local
• call over and over, making it hard to ignore
• use ‘robocalls’ or recorded messages saying your internet will be disconnected and ask for payment or personal data
• lie and tell you stories, like your computer needs urgent attention
• act like it’s an emergency and tell you something bad will happen if you don’t click a link or call a number to check your details.
It’s probably a scam if:
• a call or text sounds too good to be true
• someone you don’t know has your personal details
• your bank (or another institution that you trust) calls or texts you to ask for personal information or money
• you’re threatened or made to feel afraid
• someone asks to access your computer.
How to protect yourself from phone scams
Remember the rule: If in doubt, don’t.
Don’t answer, don’t click on links, don’t give personal details, and don’t give money.
• Don’t answer if you don’t know who it is. Let the call go to voicemail first. If the caller leaves a number, check that it matches the one on their website.
• Don’t reply or click on any links in text messages.
• Don’t ever send money.
• Don’t ever tell anyone your personal details—passwords or other sensitive information.
• Don’t ever let someone take control of your computer.
• Check if an unknown number is from an official source by checking online. Typing the number into a search engine like Google might come up with details about the owner of the phone number.
• Carefully choose who you share personal details with online and update privacy settings on social media.
Microsoft has also released information online on how people can protect themselves against tech support scams.
Microsoft make it clear that Microsoft will not send unsolicited email messages or call if you didn’t ask them to, and under no circumstances would they request personal or financial information, as well as requesting bitcoin or gift cards. Furthermore, any errors messages will never include a tech support number.
What to do you do if a scammer has your information?
If you have downloaded any software at the request of the scammers, it is important that you uninstall it, then run a windows security scan and other scans to make sure there’s no malware left. Alternatively, you can run a factory reset, which will be sure to remove any unwanted data.
If the scammers have made any payments, it is important to contact the bank as soon as possible to contest any payments, then cancel any cards that were compromised.
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