Thursday 15 March 2012

Social Engineering: Crooks preying on our parents

A menacing problem
I think this is becoming an emergency in Nigeria and it requires we begin to focus on the menace of unconscionable, unscrupulous and merciless confidence tricksters preying on the vulnerable sectors of our society.
Last year, somebody called my mother informing her of my being in trouble abroad and convincingly persuaded her to part with some money. Having tricked her the first time, they applied more pressure at which time she chatted to my siblings who were able to break her out of the spell she had fallen under and stop the criminal activity.
Using my blog, I tried to create a storm and though we never apprehended the nasty piece of work, the bank at least got involved enough for about 3 weeks trying to get hold of the person who for the pressure and bad publicity that had gone out regarding his identity was forced to go to ground.
My mother’s situation was not an exception, the fact is our once strong, able parents are now older and less agile in terms of things in their daily lives, there are people out there ready to create situations of distress, panic, anxiety or fear and by doing so getting our now vulnerable and sometimes lonely parents to part with their life’s savings.
Abductions and hypnoses
I heard today of another case where a fine and wonderful lady in her 70s had gone to withdraw some cash from a bank and as she left the bank, she was accosted by persons who abducted her and took her to some place she can no more recollect.
It is very possible she was hypnotised because she gave them the money she had withdrawn and then she was dropped off at home where the next day under some sort of influence she returned to the bank to withdraw 5 times what she withdrew before and handed it over to the gang.
At the end of the second day, she apparently came to and informed her daughter of what had happened but swore her daughter to secrecy about informing other siblings. Meanwhile the gang was trying again to get her to withdraw more money for them and thankfully to no avail.
Tackling the issue
At first one has to be thankful that she came to no physical harm but the mental anguish and scars of such an encounter will no doubt be more lasting. She is not as chatty as she used to be and she rarely leave her home; this is a lady who has travelled the world has been fiercely independent apart from the fact that she had been widowed for over 3 decades.
I do not think the case of my mother and that of this amazing lady are unique, I have the feeling it is happening a lot but the victims are not talking or telling anyone for the embarrassment, the shame or the realisation that they are a lot more vulnerable than they are ready to let on.
Banks must profile
Banks are usually the centres of this corrupt enterprise because that is where the money is with people being cajoled, blackmail, shaken-down or rustled. They need to be aware that people are targeting their customers usually gaining information about accounts or other pertinent details that will not draw suspicion to criminal activity preying on the vulnerability of the elderly.
Besides, I think banks have a greater duty of care and concern towards these vulnerable sections of society and it is important that they adopt measures that are sympathetic and cognisant of withdrawal patterns of these people – such as alerts to successive withdrawals of large sums of money, facilitation of wired transfers rather than the handling of large sums of cash and advising that senior citizens for their good be better accompanied to and from the banks.
They need to create better profiles of their customers of a certain age, install triggers to alert to unusual activity and have better levels of customer care and challenge/response scenarios to help their customers safeguard their wealth especially when things are somewhat out of the person’s control.
Any other ideas you might have towards helping our parents evade these crooks will be welcome and please post them as comments.
Thank you.
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