Bankwest, COTA urge bunkered-down seniors to be vigilant

26 April 2022

Bankwest and Council on the Ageing WA (COTA) are urging older Western Australians to be on guard against scams and fraud, following reports of elderly people ‘bunkering down’ in response to increasing COVID risks.

COTA has advised that feedback from organisations supporting seniors point to an increasing trend of older people self-isolating as a precautionary strategy against COVID as WA continues to experience high case numbers.

The decision has resulted in an increased usage by older Western Australians of online services, such as shopping and banking, leaving those less familiar with digital options exposed and vulnerable to scammers.

Bankwest data shows criminals are increasingly taking advantage of cyber literacy and confidence gaps in older Australians, who consistently represent about a third of all cases reported to the financial institution.

Bankwest scams data for the first three months of the year have reflected that trend, with more than 100 Remote Access/IT and more than 80 Threat/Penalty scams already recorded for customers 60-years-old and over.

Both attacks prey on the vulnerabilities being experienced by older Australians in the current climate of financial, physical and psychological uncertainty, as well as an increased number of those using online services.

Remote Access/IT scams commonly target those less confident with technology and involve criminals posing as tech support to access a victim’s PC under the guise of fixing it, then installing malware to enable ongoing access.

Threat/Penalty scams use a sense of urgency to pressure people into making seemingly legitimate payments, from fine threats to victims often receiving a text to “call now” if they did not authorise a high-value faux purchase.

The two categories combined accounted for 64 per cent of scams and frauds against those aged 60 and over.

COTA WA CEO Christine Allen said: “It’s completely understandable that some older members of our community are feeling uncertain and unsafe at this time, because we know they are the ones at the highest risk with COVID.

“Commentary such as that around CBD traffic also tells us more senior Western Australians are not alone in spending less time in the community, however, that isolation increases their vulnerability to threats such as scams.

“We want older Western Australians to be aware of the risks associated with conducting more activities online, but this is also a message for everyone to look out for those who could be taken advantage of.

“COTA WA recently launched its Interruptions to Daily Living Guide to support older people during periods of self-isolation – by choice or circumstance – which might be helpful to those feeling uncertain and anxious at this time."

Bankwest Executive Manager, Fraud Management Services Audrey Pajmon said: “Older customers are unfortunately always overrepresented whenever we do an analysis of scams and fraud cases.

“Bankwest does everything it can to recover funds, but it’s not always possible, particularly if victims are willing participants in scams by, for example, authorising transactions or providing scammers with SMS codes.

“I encourage everyone to arm themselves with an understanding of scams, with Scamwatch providing a wealth of support material, and the ACCC’s Little Black Book of Scams an invaluable education and awareness resource.

“Bankwest has also developed the Safe and Savvy Guide, which helps educate and inform customers, particularly more senior Australians, on how to stay safe online, with information covering scams, frauds, and financial abuse."

Bankwest’s top tips to protect yourself from scams and fraud:

  • Verify callers’ identity – particularly if unsolicited – by hanging up and dialling official numbers.
  • Never share your credit/debit card details or SMS two-factor authentication codes.
  • Never provide someone with access to your device, which commonly requires downloading software.
  • Organisations such as Telstra and the ATO will not contact you directly for urgent payments or actions.
  • Disregard Amazon/eBay texts if you do not have an account and only use verified numbers for contact.
  • If you receive an unexpected call from Bankwest and are not comfortable, hang up and call us on 13 17 19.

About Bankwest
Bankwest’s vision is to deliver brilliant customer experiences every day and our purpose is to build a brighter future for all. Bankwest provides personal and business banking solutions for customers across Australia. Our customers enjoy access to an extensive network of branches and business centres, direct and third-party distribution channels, agencies and electronic banking facilities, as well as 24-hour banking on the telephone, internet and the Bankwest App. Bankwest, a division of Commonwealth Bank of Australia ABN 48 123 123 124 AFSL/Australian credit license 234945.

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