Computer Crime Research Center


Internet fraud scares off seniors

Date: November 17, 2004
Source: Port Macquarie News
By: Laurie Sullivan

Elderly people have so much to gain from the internet, but they are being scared off by internet fraud and fake emails, according to a man who has introduced scores of older local people to the web.

Recently a 75-year-old Port Macquarie woman was caught by an email scam. Emails purporting to be from Citibank and SunTrust asked the recipient to confirm their banking credit card and banking details. She replied to an email and three withdrawals totalling $9000 were made from her account in a three-hour period, according to police.

In the last month there have been two local eBay frauds. In the first a 16-year-old student lost almost $300 when he attempted to buy a new mobile phone and a Port man lost $2000 bidding for a computer projector.

Personal banking, paying bills, researching topics and simply keeping up with their grandchildren's activities are just some of the practical applications available to older internet users. But, older people are as fearful of being ripped off by unscrupulous operators as they are of learning the technology, says Harry Bryant, who runs Port's senior computer users group.

"A lot of elderly people are being frightened off the internet unnecessarily," Mr Bryant said.

"It's a dreadful shame because they are missing out on a great means of communication. There's so much they could be getting out of the internet."

Security is one of the issues Mr Bryant discusses at some length with his students.

"All internet users should be on their guard," he said.

"It's important to be able to recognise suspicious emails. If they get one they have any doubts about they should delete the email without opening it.

"Be very suspicious of any email requesting passwords. If you delete an email that was legitimate they will make contact another way."

Michael O'Donnell, who conducts occasional computer courses at Hastings Library, reiterated the golden rule of never providing personal bank account or other details in emails. Mr O'Donnell said his course had been more concerned with the danger of computer viruses, but he would probably widen its scope to cover fraud and theft.

Many local retirees moved here from Sydney or another area. They get hand-me-down computers from their children so they can communicate with their families.

Several people contacted the News after receiving emails purporting to be from SunTrust and Citibank.

Mr Bryant said some of the people he teaches about computers are in their 80s.

"They love the challenge and do everything on the net.

"Yet other people I talk to are terrified by it."

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