Cabaero: When scammers target seniors

·2 min read

When online scammers victimize senior citizens and retirees, the harm inflicted is greater compared to the pain that the younger targets have to suffer.

When senior citizens fall for scams and end up deprived of their money or property, they will not have the years nor the energy to regain what they lost. Their loss could mean not having enough for their sustenance and maintenance.

This was the sentiment that cropped up during my webinar on “Digital safety for seniors” held on July 16, 2022, and sponsored by the Philippine Association of Retired Professionals Inc. (PARP). The impact of losing money to a scam indeed is heavier on those retired and elderly compared to those who are still productive, have a support system of equally productive family and friends, and can recover their loss.

The suggestion then cropped up for Congress to amend pertinent laws to make the penalty for scams committed on seniors and retirees, one degree higher than what is provided. It makes sense as the elderly have become a niche target for scammers.

Scams via email, text messages, on social media, and websites target seniors who are perhaps not tech-savvy, are slow to act, have money meant for their retirement, and some of them are lonely. In our circle of friends and family, we hear of those who were victimized by scams and lost access to their accounts. Other people lost their retirement money and savings to too-good-to-be-true offers.

Fake email. Unsolicited job or cash offers. Money requests from a person posing as a grandchild. Romance scams that target lonely elderly people. A retired medical practitioner lost half a million pesos after a foreigner befriended her online and enticed her to pay the courier fee for a package containing thousands of US dollars he promised to send her. After she sent him the money, nothing was heard from him, until his arrest.

Seniors should be wary of such money requests, ignore unsolicited offers, delete messages and block senders, secure their privacy, and never reveal personal details and passwords. They may ask family members to help report the scam to authorities. The police, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Trade and Industry have procedures for lodging complaints.

Laws against scams impose what seem to be light penalties. The Access Devices Regulation Act of 1998 has it at imprisonment of six to 20 years and a fine of P10,000 or twice the value obtained through illegal means, while the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 sets jail time of six to 12 years and/or a fine of not more than P500,000.

Some of the seniors in the webinar were shocked by the laws’ provisions and wanted the penalty to be increased if the victims were aged 60 years or older. It is an excellent suggestion that Congress should take up after it opens tomorrow, Monday.

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