Seniors fall prey to cyber criminals with scams on the rise

9 November 2020

Bankwest has identified that cyber criminals are actively targeting the community’s most vulnerable members at a rate more than double that of any other age groups, with overall scam cases also on the rise.

A Bankwest analysis of scams and fraud trends found customers aged 60 years and older made up nearly half (45 per cent) of all cases since January, with the next highest age bracket, 50-59, at 21 per cent.

The most common threat type for the 60+ age group was remote access and IT scams, which usually involve criminals posing as tech support and contacting victims under the guise of being able to fix computer issues.

The figures have been released as part of WA Seniors Week, helping to highlight the scourge of crimes targeting the most vulnerable, and the need for ongoing awareness, education, and protection for customers.

Online scams experienced a sharp increase of 40 per cent (Jul-Sep) compared to the previous quarter (Apr-Jun), with a surge in remote access threats, as more people work from home and shop online.

The spike was largely due to a scam that surged in September, with criminals offering victims a mobile phone for completing a survey, then obtaining and exploiting their bank details under the guise of a postage charge.

Bankwest’s scams and fraud team recorded 2,450 cases in the first 10 months of 2020, with a potential exposure of more than $14 million, and recovered $9.9 million in customer funds.

The most common threat facing all customers this year was investment scams, with 701 cases worth $2,609,688, as criminals continued to seize on the financial uncertainty of COVID-19.

Scamwatch provides a wealth of support material, while Bankwest’s Safe and Savvy Guide helps educate and inform customers, particularly those in the highly-targeted age groups, of the dangers of scams and fraud.

Quotes attributed to Bankwest General Manager of Personal and Third-Party Banking Donna Dalby:

“Our top priority is the wellbeing of customers and the community, and we all have a responsibility to protect and educate our loved ones, especially those more at-risk, which is why education on scams is so important.

“There is a reason we’re seeing these surges now, and criminals are capitalising on West Australians’ love of online shopping, more people online as they work from home, and the financial uncertainty of COVID-19.

“Bankwest will do everything it can to recover customer funds, but it’s not always possible, which is why it’s so important for people to be aware of the risks out there and protect themselves.”

Quotes attributed to Justine Martyr, Acting CEO of Advocare:

“It is vital for older people to be able to access clear information about how to protect themselves from financial abuse in any form, and it’s pleasing to see Bankwest’s Safe and Savy program is continuing to support older people in this regard.

“Financial abuse is the most common form of elder abuse that is carried out by someone in a relationship where there is an expectation of trust, such as a family member or friend.

“If you, or someone you know, experiences, suspects or witnesses elder abuse of any kind, call the WA Elder Abuse Helpline on 1300 724 679. All calls are free and confidential and answered by experienced advocates.”

Proportion of scam cases by age group

January - October 2020
18 to 29 30 to 39 40 to 49 50 to 59 60+
6.2% 12.2% 15.9% 21.1% 44.6%

Scam type by age group

January - October 2020
Scam type 18 to 29 30 to 39 40 to 49 50 to 59 60+
Business/email hack 3 6 2 5 13
Buying/selling 2 7 5 4 6
Investment 32 76 108 161 235
Relationship 5 13 13 20 38
Remote access/IT 29 48 63 70 244
Threat and penalty 13 20 13 14 41
Unexpected money/prize 18 32 59 75 160

Scam type

January - October 2020
Scam type No of cases Exposure value
Investment 701 $2,609,688
Remote access/IT 551 $1,819,272
Unexpected money/prize 457 $723,107
Threat and penalty 128 $882.383
Relationship 132 $1,641,751
Business/email hack 73 $6,291,738
Buying/selling 47 $137,817

Number of scam cases by month

Month No of cases
January 190
February 285
March 187
April 241
May 237
June 220
July 222
August 284
September 319
October 265

About Bankwest
Bankwest’s vision is to deliver brilliant customer experiences every day and our purpose is to improve the financial wellbeing of our customers and communities. Bankwest provides personal and business banking solutions for more than 1.1 million 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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