A Bankwest analysis of scams and fraud trends found that customers aged 60 years and older comprised nearly half (45 per cent) of all cases since January, with the next highest age bracket 50 to 59 years old, at 21 per cent.
There was a sharp spike in online scams of 40 per cent between July and September, compared to the previous quarter of between April and June.
This was attributed to a surge in remote access threats as more people work from home and shop online.
The spike was largely due to scam that surged in September, when criminals offered victims a mobile phone for completing a survey, and then obtaining and exploiting their bank details under the guise of a postal charge.
The figures, which have been released as part of Western Australia Seniors Week, also showed that the most common threat type for those aged 60 and older was remote access and IT scams, which usually involve criminals posing as technical support and contacting victims under the pretence of assisting them with computer issues.
Bankwest’s scams and fraud team recorded 2,450 cases in the first 10 months of 2020, with a potential exposure of more than $14 million, and recovered $9.9 million in customer funds.
According to the bank, the most common threat facing all customers this year was investment scams as criminals continued to take advantage of the financial uncertainty amid the coronavirus pandemic, with 701 cases worth $2.6 million recorded.
Commenting on the trends, Bankwest general manager of personal and third-party banking, Donna Dalby, said: “There is a reason we’re seeing these surges now, and criminals are capitalising on Western Australians’ love of online shopping, more people online as they work from home, and the financial uncertainty of COVID-19.
“Bankwest will do everything it can to recover customer funds, but it’s not always possible, which is why it’s so important for people to be aware of the risks out there and protect themselves.”
Bankwest pointed to its Safe and Savvy Guide, which aims to educate and inform customers, particularly those in the “highly targeted” age groups, of the dangers of scams and fraud.
The acting CEO of an advocacy group for older Australians, Advocare, Justin Martyr said: “Financial abuse is the most common form of elder abuse that is carried out by someone in a relationship where there is an expectation of trust, such as a family member or friend.
“It is vital for older people to be able to access clear information about how to protect themselves from financial abuse in any form, and it’s pleasing to see Bankwest’s Safe and Savvy program is continuing to support older people in this regard.”
[Related: CBA cracks down on tech-driven abuse]