You’ve worked your whole life to gather financial security. What would you do if it was stolen from you?
Identity theft and financial fraud are increasingly picking up traction as crimes that are targeting more and more everyday Aussies. With more people online and a growing demand for individuals to be financially independent the threshold for criminal activity is wide open. We’re seeing the consequences in our office on a regular basis, and while years of experience can serve you well when it comes to spotting a con artist, data suggests Australians aged 65 and older are more likely to be hit by a fraudster than fall victim to any other crime.
“Although the proportion of the elderly experiencing fraud is lower than for those aged less than 65 years, this is the crime they are most likely to experience and the effects can be devastating as the elderly are often not able to recoup the losses.” Jeromey Temple, “Trends & Issues in Crime & Criminal Justice”
I think it’s a misconception that the elderly are more likely to fall victim because they are “more trusting” or “less aware”. In fact fraud, in general, is on the rise. In 2011, the US reported a 62 per cent increase in instances of fraud and a reported 6.3 million Australians were exposed to a scam in 2013. And those most likely to fall victim to fraud are between the ages of 25-55.
What is less reported on, and what we see more frequently, is the fact that when retirees fall victims to scams the financial and emotional hit can be catastrophic. With Australia’s ageing population comes the fact that many Aussies are doing it tough and doing it alone. Disconnection from family members and friends tends to make people more vulnerable to fraud and identity theft. A lot of scams happen online. These could be the internet dating scams that the media love to report on or the “click here to win” ploys that amazingly still have people handing over their personal details, but a lot of scams also occur in the home. Too often do we see “carers” and family members turning on the people they’re meant to be looking out for.
Identity theft is just one of the ways these scams can manifest. While identity theft is always serious the elderly are more vulnerable in two distinct ways: One, there are times in latter life where our personal documents are often available to those they wouldn’t normally have been (a live-in carer, nursing staff etc.); and two, when large debts are racked up in your name and you’re beyond working age the financial consequences are heartbreaking.
We’ve prepared some quick info (you can find it below!) on identity theft and how to avoid it. The information is for everyone, but I do hope that in publishing it I’ve made a few more people aware about the risks our older population face and how we can help protect those that protected us.
Scammers often target victims online through unsolicited emails, spam, phony banks, fake lottery wins and more. They often impersonate charities and well-known companies with shocking success.
Our Top Tips
1. Face to face.
Bank and do business in person rather than online. We know it’s tempting to transfer cash with the swish of a finger but it also leaves you extremely vulnerable to scams and fraud.
2. Security software.
Ensure that online security software is up to date and current. This will lessen the damage caused by viruses and dangerous links. Most softwares usually have an automatic reminder but don’t forget to manually check as well.
3. Monitoring Services.
Banks and financial institutions often provide a monitoring service for bank accounts. Sometimes for as little as $10 a month, they can keep an eye out for any suspicious activity.
Old school but effective. By shredding documents with any names, bank account information or credit card details, you greatly decrease the risk of identity theft.
Stay current on the latest scams and fraud bait then inform those who might not be as privy.
Of course, these steps are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to preventing identity theft but it’s extremely important to promote online precaution.