In this day and age most people will have heard of senior fraud and the effects it can have on an individual both mentally and physically. Even though there are a number of resources readily available to the public to help prevent people falling victim to the scammers, the number of fraud offences are rising each year.

Home Instead play an active role in supporting the local community in raising awareness. People who suffer from Dementia are particularly susceptible to fraud as they are in a vulnerable situation which can easily be forgotten.

According to a recent report in the Sydney Morning Herald, criminals preying on elderly people have used an elaborate telephone scam to defraud them of a total of $5 million in the past six months.

How did it happen? Why were so many people fooled?

This scam started with a phone call from an upmarket store saying that a youth purporting to be their nephew had endeavoured to use their credit card.

This was quickly followed up by another call, this time from their bank’s “fraud unit” saying their card had been ‘Code Red compromised’ and that they should quickly reduce their bank balance by transferring it immediately to a failsafe ‘safety deposit’ account. They were told to confirm this by ringing 000 and speaking to Superintendent Nelson who was leading the investigation. Lo and behold, when they rang triple-0, who should answer but Superintendent Nelson who told them to follow the bank’s instructions.

Research into senior fraud reveals some of the techniques the scammers use. These include:

  • The use of the internet, as the elderly may be less technically aware of how new and emerging technologies can be used for criminal purposes than other groups within the community.
  • Pretending to be from a bank, Telstra, Microsoft, Nortons, the Police or other Government department.
  • Sick or “at need” family scams.
  • Information given in a professional and legitimate manner.
  • Only requesting small sums of money as this makes the victim less likely to report the fraud.
  • Operating in legal ‘grey areas’, using tactics that make it difficult to identify it as fraud.
  • The use of intimidation or the threat of violence.

Once an individual has responded to a scam, the conmen and women put them on a list known as a ‘suckers list’. These contain the names of previous victims and are sold and shared between the criminal gangs.

The reason the elderly are targeted could be down to a variety of reasons such as loneliness, financial stability, poor health, their trusting natures and even a decline in their cognitive function which can lead to poor decision making.

Even when the fraud has stopped, the impact it has on the victims and their families’ lives can be detrimental. A lot of people will lose trust even in their loved ones and can suffer from low self-esteem. They also may never recover financially and could potentially lose their assets.

Some ways to try and keep your loved ones safe from fraud are:

  • Shred or burn documents that contain sensitive information.
  • Make sure any charities that your loved one is donating to is a registered charity.
  • Watch out for any changes in lifestyle, whether its poor diet and nutrition or unusual activity with their finances.
  • Remind them to remain vigilant on the phone and PC – their bank will NEVER ask for a password or sensitive details. If they are ever asked to ring their bank or police for verification, make sure they use a second phone for the outbound call as the line may be compromised.
  • Be suspicious of anyone who promises big returns on an investment. Always remember if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is!

If you are worried they are being scammed, contact Scamwatch.

Scamwatch is run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). It provides information to consumers and small businesses about how to recognise, avoid and report scams. If you are concerned about a possible scam, check You can subscribe to their alerts by clicking on the following link and report a scam here