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Police: online fraudsters scam seniors for more than $1m

Online scammers take advantage of senior citizens’ vulnerabilities (File image)

Residents were urged to help protect the island’s seniors from online fraudsters after elders were duped out of about $1.5 million since January last year.

The Bermuda Police Service said their financial crime unit investigated 18 cases in as many months.

In one instance, a senior got swindled out of $250,000.

The BPS reminded the public of “the need to help protect our senior citizens against falling victim to scams in which bad actors take advantage of their vulnerabilities and steal monies from them”.

They added: “This is a form of elder abuse.”

The BPS said: “These unscrupulous individuals play on the vulnerabilities of the elderly, leading them to provide their personal information and banking details.

“There have even been instances where family members have caused seniors to make transactions against their will.”

Detective Chief Inspector Jason Smith, of the specialist investigations unit, said: “The BPS are seeing a rise in the number of such cases being reported.

“To date, five arrests have been made and two persons have been convicted in the courts for these offences.”

He added: “We want to encourage the public to help protect our seniors by reminding them not to give their personal information to anyone without first verifying that they are from a reputable organisation with which they have a bona fide interest.

“We are also appealing to family members who are aware of other relatives who may be pressuring elders to give money to someone, or trying to trick a senior into signing wills or contracts, to come forward and report these matters to the police.

“The BPS would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the contributions that our seniors have made to our community and give the assurance that we will continue to do all within our power to ensure their safety and wellbeing, in order that they may enjoy their golden years.”

The Royal Gazette reported this week that financial institutions and an advocacy group noted worrying elder abuse and rising attempts to financially victimise senior citizens.

Last year, Age Concern referred more than 50 cases to authorities owing to concerns about elder abuse — a figure higher than in previous years.

The charity held a workshop with the BPS recently to educate its members on financial abuse and fraud.

Police have issued multiple warnings after island residents fell prey to internet crooks.

Last August, the BPS said there had been numerous reports of people getting duped out of monies online, with a spokesman warning that in banking fraud statistics, scams were “usually entered into our database as either ‘theft’ or ‘deception’.”

“There is no way to subcategorise into banking scams.”

Police said that from January 1 to August 1, 2023, they initiated 54 investigations involving fraud and deception and 236 investigations of theft.

Last March, the police issued a warning about giving out personal banking details after a man lost nearly $1,000 to a fraud centred on bedroom furniture advertised on Instagram.

Police suggested that the victim had been contacted by an impostor claiming to be from the BPS cybercrimes unit seeking financial details.

In December 2022, people lost $10,000 after they made payments for goods that were never delivered.

In 2021, residents were cheated out of almost $4 million in online scams, police reported.

Suspected scams can be reported to the police by calling 211 or e-mailing 211@bps.bm

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Published June 21, 2024 at 8:01 am (Updated June 21, 2024 at 8:13 am)

Police: online fraudsters scam seniors for more than $1m

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