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.

Scam victims are often seniors- learn the warning signs

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

Queensland 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.

"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."

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.


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.

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