Be Aware: Elderly easy target of fraudsters

By April 13, 2019 Younger Sphere

PUNE: Senior citizens have emerged as the latest victims of cybercrime frauds with criminals tricking them into disclosing their bank details.

In Pune, such cases make up 10 cent of the total cybercrime fraud cases, says Pune cybercrime cell senior inspector Sunil Pawar. In Bangalore, Calcutta and elsewhere, around 20 per cent victims of such frauds are the elderly. Delhi has witnessed a spurt in victims of such crimes. Noida has emerged as the hub of e-banking frauds with the police registering around 850 cases in 2016.

A retired accountant in Pimpri Chinchwad recently realised to his horror that knowledge of finances is no safeguard against fraud. When a person claiming to be the bank manager called him up and told him that his debit card would be blocked, he panicked and disclosed details about his debit card. By the time he realised his mistake, Rs4 lakh had vanished from his account.

In another incident, a 62-year-old widow from Mumbai lost about Rs 20 lakh in an online fraud after she fell for the charms of a “UK-based suitor” and transferred the money to an account he provided to apparently pay for the customs duty.

For fraudsters, elderly people are easy targets because they are less likely to react to SMSes or email confirmations sent by the banks as soon as payment is made from their accounts, says Manoj Jain, co-founder and director at Riskpro India Ventures (P) Ltd, a risk management services company.

Their discomfort with technology apart, most elderly people lead lonely lives. “They are mentally and physically tired and seek support and kindness. So, when a fraudster appears to fill that need, the senior citizen responds by trusting him or her,” says RV Raman, former head of KPMG’s Consulting Practice.

Very often, their trust for strangers proves costly. In all the cases we have received where the elderly have been the victims, they have lost all their money, said Pawar.

“When the elderly fall for such charms it becomes easier for fraudsters to steal their money,” says Amit Jaju, executive director, fraud investigation and dispute services, Ernst and Young India.

Once senior citizens lose their money, it becomes very difficult to recover it. Quite often, the money is transferred to different wallets and it becomes next to impossible for the police to trace the money, says Pawar.

The problem is, says Jaju, there is no specific organisation in India, unlike in the US, to protect seniors from such scams. “In the US, the Federal Bureau of Investigation lists businesses that are dubious. Also, there is Better Business Bureau Service which enables one to go to its website and check the authenticity of a firm. That facility is not available in India,” he says.