Three reasons why the elderly are targets for scammers

The surprising reasons why the elderly are more likely to fall victim to scammers.

Why scammers target the elderly

Seems the old ‘Nigerian Prince’ is still up to his old tricks again, scamming his way through the bank accounts of vulnerable Australians. In January, so-called Nigerian scams netted $300,000 from unsuspecting victims, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Scamwatch.

Those scammers tend to be less active after a large sting like January’s haul. The previous  haul that reached six figures took place in August, when they swiped almost half a million dollars. In subsequent months, for whatever reason, their takings have tended to be smaller.

Not all ‘Nigerian’ scams originate in the African nation, and not all scams use the same methods to lift other people’s money.

But one thing they do have in common is that they mostly hope to target the elderly, as they believe they are the most likely to fall for their ruses.

US financial website has highlighted a number of reasons why some older people are prone to be fleeced in this way. This is what they said:

  • Isolation and loneliness – a fact of life for many seniors who are not closely monitored by loved ones. A pleasant, slick professional calls on the phone in a friendly and engaging manner, and traps the vulnerable elder with kind words, attention and a feeling of connection. The thieves are trained and smart.
  • Diminished cognition – scammers can sometimes, legitimately, get their hands on thousands of names from subscription lists. If the ages of the subscribers are included, then their chances of finding victims with early dementia are excellent. Some elderly people will be just impaired enough that they can’t see a scam coming. At least a third of those aged 85 and above have dementia in some form. Research into the impairments of Alzheimer’s tells us that financial judgment may be the first to erode, and though the impairment may be significant, it may not be obvious initially.
  • Financial insecurity – many elderly people have lived through the Great Depression. That experience left an indelible mark on their view that all could be lost and that there may not be enough for tomorrow. Whether true or not, people can succumb to temptation if they feel they can receive easy money. Perhaps a bit of greed is a factor, too.  

If you are concerned that your money may be at risk of being scammed, approach a trusted family member or friend, or a professional adviser to help you check your financial statements regularly for large, inexplicable transactions.

In the meantime, keep your computer and smartphone’s anti-virus software up to date; be wary of emails that don't address you by name or misspell your details, or have unknown attachments; don't click any links on a suspicious email; don’t open the door to someone you do not recognise; don’t answer a phone call from an unknown number and, very importantly, do not dial the number back.

For more tips on how to protect yourself against scammers, visit Scamwatch.


    All content on the YourLifeChoices' website is of a general nature and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It has been prepared with due care, but no guarantees are provided for ongoing accuracy or relevance. Before making a decision based on this information, you should consider its appropriateness with regard to your circumstances. You should seek professional advice from a financial planner, lawyer or tax agent in relation to any aspects that affect your financial and legal circumstances. Financial comments provided by readers cannot be relied on as professional advice, but as general comments only.


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    20th Mar 2018
    Oh its such a concern. Door knockers and phone scams. My mother was such a concern as her mind started to fail and we really did worry that she would give away her savings. It was just fortunate she was part of the cheque signing generation so handing visa details over the phone was not "her thing". Why isn't it possible to block charities phoning?
    I had a guy from Unicef on my door step last week. He didn't want a cash donation. He opened a folder and revealed an iPad for me to sign up to monthly donations! Good grief - all my alarm bells started ringing.
    20th Mar 2018
    Yes Rosret and if you read the fine print, you would find that the door knocker gets the first four payments as commission. It’s disgusting how little goes to the people who need it. I refuse to give money to charities who want me to sign up, or by telephone
    20th Mar 2018
    Perhaps another dot point should be that older people are likely to have more money and assets than younger people. No point targeting those with nothing to scam!

    Same goes for why older recently divorced women are targeted on lonely hearts sites. The scammers think they all have a big 'settlement' they can get their hands on.

    20th Mar 2018
    Great Depression ?
    How old is this article ?
    20th Mar 2018
    I think elderly in this article means 85-90. "Living through the great depression"? What?

    I am 69, retired with illness at 58 and consider myself quite elderly.

    I think many elderly people are into volunteer work and charities and prepared to give to any con artist with a hard luck story.

    For me there is nothing to give. I can scrape up 4 to 6 hrs a day for essentials, delete all suspicious email that might contain a computer virus and unplug the telephone for a week if sales people start to call.
    20th Mar 2018
    If people phone or appear on your doorstep cold calling the consumer has a cooling off period of 10 business days to cancel goods or contracts without having to pay a penalty. The law says that the cold caller must tell you that information before you sign or agree to anything but they never do.
    20th Mar 2018
    This is a concern, Surely the check banks and check transactions.Rosret Ipads are the smart new way of signing people up there and then on the spot including electricity deals
    20th Mar 2018
    They're still required to accept a cooling off period.
    21st Mar 2018
    I have had reps. from a few charities that wanted me to sign up for monthly payments. NO WAY !

    22nd Mar 2018
    I am coming up 73 and mentally I am not the age at all. I think I am pretty with it and well aware of all these scams and cannot believe that people are still falling for them despite all the darn warnings that have been on tv, radio, all the media.

    Are people downright stupid or down right greedy!!

    Tags: money, scams, elderly,

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