Scams are targeting elderly residents in the area, and specialists say that they are becoming more sophisticated by the day.

A local woman lost nearly 10k in an iTunes Gift Card scam. The woman, who was cold-called by an international scammer, was promised a ‘substantial’ lump sum of cash, if she would purchase iTunes vouchers, and send the voucher numbers to the scammer, who could then sell them online.

Age Concern Nelson Tasman Elder Abuse Response Advisor, Mal Drummond, says that scams have become much more sophisticated in recent years.

“The scammer would actually phone the store ahead of time, before she went there, to tell them that this person was coming, and that she was going to be buying iTunes vouchers, but it was all ok, and the scammer claimed to be her granddaughter.”

The police became involved after the business, a local supermarket where the woman was purchasing the gift cards from, became suspicious of the volume and frequency of gift cards she was purchasing.

“We engaged with her and put a Safety plan around her. But it didn’t stop the scammer.”

Mal says that while they suspect the scammer was based overseas, they believe there would have been some sort of assistance from someone inside the country.

“Even after the police became involved, the scammer continued to ring. Even after the police had spoken to them they continued to call. The money that she’s paid out is gone, she won’t get that back.”

“That could be a person’s life savings. It has a significant impact on people. People who are retired don’t have the ability to just go out and earn more money.”

Mal says that these people are victims.

“Our focus is on showing the person that they’ve been the victim of the crime rather than them being gullible. It can happen to anyone.”

Mal says that he has seen the level of sophistication in scams increase in the five years that he’s been with Age Concern.

“The level of sophistication and determination has really increased. For every thousand ‘get losts’ they get they might get one person who is ready to believe them, and that’s all they need.”

Age Concern manager Caroline Budge says that the organisation is working with businesses and concerned residents to try and make everyone aware of the level of sophistication that some of these scams have taken on.

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