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Scam Prevention: Detecting elderly scams in new payment methods

The elderly are often scammed out of thousands of dollars.

Targeting the over-60 population is not a new trick scammers use, but it is becoming increasingly common for digital payments. In recent years the sophistication of targeting and coaching the older population to use digital payments and crypto to pay for goods/services they never receive has exploded.

This increase in scams comes when regulators increasingly scrutinize Real-time payment rails, and the reputation of digital payments and crypto is in question.

The market is headed for a perfect storm where the increasing adoption of digital creates a larger population of potential victims.

We need to detect scams as they happen.

And to do that, we need to know how it works.

How the scam starts:

Senior scammers primarily target elderly populations due to a combination of

  • Poor understanding of technology
  • Larger bank account balances
  • Vulnerability to high-pressure guidance from the scammer.

Scammers exploit these factors and patiently build trust and relationships with their victims over time. They use a trustworthy pretense (like selling an item or an investment opportunity). They use this trust to “coach” the victim through digital tools and crypto. This may include

  1. Guiding the victim through KYC, with the victim’s real credentials
  2. Remote screen sharing or screenshots when the user gets stuck
  3. Sending funds to unspecified wallets or accounts

Why it’s hard to detect:

Most KYC processes can identify a stolen identity fairly quickly. However, detection becomes much more difficult when a real user has entered their real identity.

Take this real-world case study for example:

  • 70+ old male
  • Was connected to a scammer after responding to an advertisement for a camper
  • Over the phone, the scammer guided the victim to download and create an account for a digital app.
  • The victim filed a dispute when the camper was not delivered. In this case the merchant or sometimes the victim has to bear the brunt of the losses.

It doesn’t have to stay this way.

Better detection in real-time

It’s not enough to rely on KYC information to detect this behavior. Crypto and P2P payment services should look for signals that the user is under stress or if someone else is controlling the screen (in browser sessions) with tools like AnyDesk, TeamViewer, Zoom, Microsoft RDP, etc.

Scammers often instruct victims to take screenshots or record the screen so they can pass this information up their chain of command.

Scammers are often organized and intentional.

But if we’re organized and intentional, we can move faster.

When you combine this with looking for any fishy behavior, you have a much higher probability of detection.

Fraud detection must be always-on because scammers are.

But so are we.

Contact us today to learn more about how Sardine stops scams before they start.

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About the author
Simon Taylor
Head of Strategy and Content