The federal health department has asked home care providers to encourage clients to report suspicious activity to police amid reports that scammers are targeting older people who are receiving a home care package.
Community Care Review has learned that the consumer watchdog has received more than 13,000 scam reports from older Australians since the beginning of the year, with losses of more than $10 million.
In the latest scam, home care recipients are contacted by people trying to lure them into upfront payment for “vouchers”, with the con artists promising this will get them a better home care package deal, the department said in an email to the aged care sector.
“In one reported case, a scammer advised the client they could offer a better Home Care Package deal and that they were eligible to receive a sum of money, but in order to receive this money they had to pay upfront through the purchase of vouchers,” it said.
“Service providers should encourage their clients to report any suspicious activity to them and the police.”
Acting CEO of industry peak Aged and Community Services Australia, Darren Mathewson, said ACSA had not yet received any reports from members or their clients regarding the scam, but said ACSA was angry to hear home care package recipients were being targeted.
“At this stage, we are not aware of any of our members or their clients being impacted by the scam,’ he told Community Care Review.
“We will be advising our members in our weekly member communication so providers can warn their home care package recipients and anyone targeted should contact the police.”
Leading Age Services Australia also said it had not received any feedback, but a spokesman said LASA supported the department’s advice.
A spokeswoman for the ACCC said home care clients contacted out of the blue by a provider should not provide personal details and should be wary of any businesses requesting payment via vouchers or gift cards.
Older people targeted by scammers
Reports of the scam emerged as National Seniors revealed the result of its 2018 annual survey indicating that older Australians are being targeted by a large number of scams.
More than 1000 of almost 5,000 respondents, or 22 per cent, said they had been the target of an internet scam.
Those used the internet less frequently were more likely to fall victim to a scam.
One respondent reported being targeted by “tens of thousands” of scammers. “We are called several times each week, plus several via email constantly,” they said.
Reported scams included bogus phone calls from Telstra, Microsoft and the Tax Office, as well as letters wanting to launder vast sums of money.
Others fell victim to computer extortion where money was demanded to remove a virus they had unwittingly put on their computer.
People who had been exposed to a scam reported being “scared”, “fearful” and “anxious”, though many said they had learnt a valuable lesson.
CEO Professor John McCallum revealed the findings of the report at the National Elder Abuse Conference in Brisbane on Tuesday, but said while older Australians were vulnerable to scams, they were more technologically savvy than was generally recognised and many were quick to learn after being bitten once.
“The pervasive, negative stereotype of all older Australians as ‘digitally disengaged’ is a far cry from reality,” he said. “Our research discovered clear evidence of the emergence of skill acquisition and self-education in dealing with scams.”