Scams targeting seniors

Reporter: Jackie Quist

Seniors and pensioners are being bombarded with 'spam scam', and many are falling victim to the elaborate cons.

An overwhelming 1.8 million of Australians aged 55 or over have been exposed to at least one scam. The latest figures suggest 6.3 million Australians have been faced with a con, with over half a million falling victim in 2011.

The ACCC's data suggested most victims are conned by the 'advance fee' or 'upfront payment' scam, while the second biggest hoax is through computer hacking.

Nine per cent of Australians are still falling for lottery frauds, banking and online account fraud, and an increasing number are being deceived by fake online auctions and shopping.

According to deputy chair of the ACCC Delia Rickard the scammers are exceptional at tapping into human psychology.

"The scammers are also good at developing trusting relationships. Every time we think we've got the message out on one scam, a new version appears," she said.

"I think scams are constantly evolving and they are very sophisticated and look very real. Even within the ACCC, we often look at something and think it is real, but really is a scam."

83-year-old Kath Legge is a victim of relentless scammers, she has been bombarded with scam letters for 15 years.

According to Ms Legge's son Marcus the scam letter floodgates opened when his mother sent some money for processing fees to one letter, that stated she had won about $98,000.

Ms Legge now receives up to a dozen sham letters a day.

"Never won anything. They are all lies," she said.

According to Russell Smith of the Australian Institute of Criminology the elderly and disabled can become easy targets.

"Certainly when people have been victimised, the scammers will continue to pursue them until they extract the last dollar from them," he said.

"We've seen instances of people who have got disabilities - deaf people - have a great reliance on computers, they have been defrauded and often the scammer will pretend to be a disabled person as well."

"It makes me really angry because the elderly people come from a different era, where you never saw this sort of thing," Marcus said.

Tips to avoid being scammed:

If it sounds too good to be true, it's probably not true.

If it has come out at you out-of-the-blue, then never give anybody you don't know access to your computer, personal details or your bank account details.