Valerie Zwart was lucky to avoid being scammed by a fake Telstra email.
Valerie Zwart was lucky to avoid being scammed by a fake Telstra email. Che Chapman

Scammers trawl the net for gullible seniors

A HEALTHY curiosity stopped Nambour resident Valerie Zwart from being sucked into a steady stream of Sunshine Coast fraud victims.

Sunshine Coast police are receiving complaints on a weekly basis from residents scammed out of tens of thousands of dollars.

Scam methods have been varied and the region's senior residents are highly represented in the victims.

Mrs Zwart, 86, was checking her emails recently when she noticed one claiming to be from Telstra.

"So I opened it to read words to the effect that I'd paid the account twice and they had picked it up and would be refunding the extra $169.45 overpaid on our account, which had to be opened by me with information on what was needed for me to do," Mrs Zwart said.

The amount was nothing like her bill and there was no account number.

A visiting friend told her to get rid of it, so she did.

READ: SCAM ADVICE: It's too good to be true

"I then rang Telstra to report it and they congratulated me on not falling for that and advised me they would never do anything like that," Mrs Zwart said.

"If we had overpaid, it would be shown on the following account."

She was left worried for other people of her generation.

"We are well into our 80s and I just feel there are many other people in the village we live in who could get caught up by it."

Sunshine Coast crime services officer Detective Acting Inspector Daren Edwards said more sophisticated instances of investment fraud were also being regularly reported.

Det Act Insp Edwards said Sunshine Coast police were getting complaints on a weekly basis.

"A lot of them are being stung via cold calling," Det Act Insp Edwards said.

"They seem to be getting worse, mostly though people's gullibility... or not consulting someone else such as family or getting a second opinion."

How hard is it to spot a scam?

This poll ended on 07 March 2016.

Current Results

It's very hard. Scammers are getting pretty clever.

24%

It's not that hard for me.

68%

I always have someone check into letters or phone calls for me when it comes to money.

6%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

He said they included a 73-year-old Nambour man who earlier this month reported losing $10,000 to a cold caller offering a share trading plan guaranteeing an 18% return.

The man had handed over the money gradually in the past 12 months and received nothing in return.

Det Act Insp Edwards said the rise in scams bucked an overall declining trend in frauds on the Sunshine Coast.

Crime statistics showed a projected 26.7% decrease in frauds for this financial year.

But that included things like bad cheques and payWave use of stolen credit cards. "So we could sit back and say we're going okay and not worry about it, but it's the specific type of fraud (cold calling and internet scams) which is becoming more of the issue," Det Act Insp Edwards said.

The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission advises people to protect themselves against scammers by being alert to the methods they will use.


ON GUARD: Some handy tips

Everyone is a target

  • Scams succeed because they look like the real thing and catch you off guard when you're not expecting it.
  • They also exploit your desire to be polite and respectful, as well as your generosity, compassion and good nature.

Be alert

  • When dealing with uninvited contacts from people or businesses, whether it's over the phone, by mail, email, in person or on a social networking site, always consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam.
  • Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Hit delete

  • Do not open suspicious texts, pop-up windows or emails - delete them
  • If unsure, verify the identity of the contact through an independent source such as a phone book or online search.
  • Don't use the contact details provided in the message sent to you.

Five things to do this weekend

Five things to do this weekend

Start the school holidays with a bang.

School's out: How teachers spend their holidays

School's out: How teachers spend their holidays

What do our school teachers in the holidays?

Real estate in talks to bring major retailers to Kingaroy

Real estate in talks to bring major retailers to Kingaroy

'We expect commitment from major commercials in the next 24 months.'

Local Partners