‘I feel stupid’: Gran lost $80k in investment scam
"I've lost everything and I'm so ashamed".
These were the words of a 77-year-old Sunshine Coast grandmother who lost $80,000 in an investment scam. She was the introduction to my new job in cybersecurity.
This grandmother, let's call her Janice, became involved after seeing an "article" on a news site where respected Australian businessman, Andrew Forrest, was promoting cryptocurrency.
A well-spoken person with an English accent called Nick explained to her how easy it was to make a little extra cash, just like Forrest did.
Janice had worked her whole life and, as a mother of four children, she had always been careful how she spent her money.
But Nick assured her it was a solid investment and he had the time her children often didn't to explain how to set it up.
Janice went to the bank she had been a customer with for 28 years and arranged a transfer with a cryptocurrency exchange and began making regular payments. It was only when she asked for a bit of the money back that it became unstuck.
Janice told me she ended up on a suicide watch. It wasn't only that she's lost her children's inheritance over four months, it was the scammer had "got into my head".
"He was so nice, so concerned and so lovely. I used to look forward to him calling me," she said.
She also felt so "stupid" for getting scammed.
What struck me after talking to Janice was the realisation how easily she could have been my mum or one of her contemporaries.
Scammers prey on the good manners our grandparents taught our parents, they prey on their loneliness and they prey on their pride.
I spoke to an older gentleman last week who stubbornly refused to accept he was being scammed because he had been a successful businessman, a husband, a father, a provider.
Scammers also prey on the limited knowledge we share with our older generation when it comes to understanding technologies and they prey on the older generations unwillingness to learn.
I asked my mum if she knew what two-factor authentication was to keep her passwords safe. She said "whaaat?"
I asked her if she knew anyone who had been scammed and she said "hasn't everyone?"
I worry about my children being bullied online. I worry about sickos engaging with them and I worry about what all that screen time is doing to their tender brains. But I should be worrying more about my mum (even if there is no inheritance to blow).
It's not hard to learn about how to keep your password safe or trends online. If I can do it, anyone can. IDCARE also has a learning centre on its website for more information you can visit at idcare.org.
Kathy Sundstrom is a former Sunshine Coast Daily journalist who now works at identity and cyber support service IDCARE.