Imagine staring at the screen of the cash point machine, bereft to find your hard earned savings have dwindled to nothing but a few cents. This is the reality many of Australia’s older population face as they are scammed and ripped off by fraudsters. In 2017, Australians lost $31.2 million to investment scams, with those aged 55 and over being financially hit the hardest. For most, it’s money they simply cannot afford to lose as the elderly are already facing rising costs in later life and having to find additional ways to finance elderly care.

Why are the elderly targeted?

The elderly have worked hard all their lives, chose to follow personal finance tips from a young age and have years of savings put aside. Unfortunately, with age comes a decline in memory and cognitive function and a longing to trust and rely on younger members of society. In addition to this, many of the senior members of society experience the loss of loved ones and this makes them lonely and more willing to accept so-called easy methods of escapism. Scammers callously abuse these factors and vulnerabilities and use them to encourage older people to part with their hard earned cash.

How family and friends can help

Family and friends can be a great source of help in protecting the elderly from being scammed. A great method is to keep up to date with the latest scams and tricks that con-artists use to gain money out of seniors and to share this information with them so they’re aware of what to look out for.

Other preventative steps friends and family can take include advising that they don’t allow any unknown persons into their home without a friend or relative also being at the property, never parting with their bank account information, including their pin number and what to look out for in potential scam emails and post.

What to do if you suspect an elderly friend or relative has been scammed?

It isn’t unusual for a relative to browse through their loved one’s bank statement and notice some unusual activity which leads them to suspect that they’ve been a victim of a scam. If you suspect this to be the case, the first thing to do is to stay calm. Getting worked up and angry will only push your relative away and prevent them from opening up. Instead, calmly and patiently question them as to what has happened and who they’ve given their information to.

Before proceeding to contact the police, you should make your elderly relative aware that this is what you intend to do. Be sure to explain why and try to empower them by gaining their agreement to the next steps.

Being scammed is an unpleasant and embarrassing experience for the elderly and many will struggle to come to terms to accept what has happened. Therefore, it’s important to support those affected and take steps to try to prevent scammers succeeding in their bid to steal the older generation’s life savings.

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