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Seniors top scammers’ hit list

Older Australians are being disproportionally ripped off by online scams. It’s your investments they’re after.

How to spot a scam

Australians made more than 601,000 scam reports last year and billions were lost to scams, according to the latest Trending Scams report.

Older people suffered the greatest harm at the hands of scammers. Losses for people over the age of 65 increased by 13.3% in 2023 to $120 million. All other age groups reported a decrease in losses.

Finance expert Effie Zahos, who is chief content officer of InvestSmart and writes for National Seniors' Money Matters newsletter, recently spoke about common scams on the Channel 9 Today show. You can watch that segment here.

National Seniors has partnered with the Australian Federal Police to release a series of videos on cyber safety which you can view here.

Top tips to avoid scams

  • STOP. Don’t rush to act. Scammers will create a sense of urgency. 

  • THINK. Ask yourself if you really know who you are communicating with. Scammers can impersonate others and lie about who they are – especially online. 

  • PROTECT. Act quickly if something feels wrong. If you have shared financial information or transferred money, contact your bank immediately. Help others by reporting to Scamwatch.  

  • Be suspicious of anyone offering you easy money. Investment scams often involve promises of big payouts for little or no risk, quick money, or guaranteed returns. But there’s always a catch. 

  • For more information about reducing the risk of investment scams, visit ASIC’s Moneysmart website

The good news is Australians are losing less to scammers. The bad news is scammers have lifted their criminal activity to record levels resulting in a record number of scams reported to authorities. 

The even worse news is older people lose the most to scammers. The ACCC found that people over 65 were the only age group to experience an increase in reported losses. In 2023, those losses increased by 13.3% to $120 million. 

People over the age of 65 were disproportionally impacted by investment scams. Many reported significant losses after being contacted by scammers through social media. 

The ACCC suspects these criminals are preying on seniors and retirees looking for investment opportunities. 

One elderly woman lost her life savings after seeing a deepfake Elon Musk video on social media, clicking the link, and registering her details online. 

She was assigned a “financial advisor” and given access to an online dashboard where she could see that her “investment” was apparently making returns, but she couldn’t withdraw her money. 

Seniors looking for paid work to supplement their retirement income also should be aware of job recruitment scams. 

The ACCC has reiterated its warning that scammers are financial criminals who use sophisticated technology and psychology to rob Australians of their money and personal information. 

They do this through: 

  • Text messages, which were the most reported contact method with 109,621 reports (37.3% increase on 2022). 

  • Scam calls, which resulted in the highest reported losses at $116 million. 

  • Scams in which contact occurred via social media resulted in the second highest in reported losses, increasing by 16.5% to $93.5 million. 

  • Job scams – losses rose by 151.2 % to just over $24.3 million. People from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities were disproportionally impacted by job scams, as were people looking for part-time work or seeking to supplement their income and ease cost of living pressures. 

In a statement, the ACCC said it was ramping up anti-scam strategies. These include technology-based solutions that will centralise intelligence and distribute information to those who can act on it – such as banks to freeze accounts, telcos to block calls or text messages (SMS), and digital platforms to take down websites or accounts. 

The National Anti-Scam Centre’s efforts to date, as reported in the latest Targeting Scams report reveals a 13.1% decline in reported losses to $2.74 billion in 2023.

Record spam reporting

Investor information

Before investing, make these simple practical checks to help reduce the risk of scams: 

Where to get help

If you think you might be involved in a scam, contact your bank immediately. You can also report to police here.

You can access support fromIDCARE,  a national identity and cyber support service. 

Australians made over 601,000 scam reports - an 18.5% increase on 2022.  

Investment scams continued to cause the most harm ($1.3 billion), followed by remote access scams ($256 million) and romance scams ($201.1 million). 

With scam activity on the rise globally in recent years, the report highlights the impact of targeted and coordinated disruption activities across government, industry, law enforcement and community organisations, leading to lower overall financial losses. 

“It is encouraging to see signs that our coordinated scam prevention, detection and disruption initiatives can stem the flow of funds to criminals and protect consumers,” ACCC Deputy Chair Catriona Lowe said. 

Related reading: ACCC, ABC


John Austin

John Austin

Policy and Communications Officer, National Seniors Australia

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