Advances in technology have been wonderful at increasing our ability to communicate with the outside world, but this comes with risks.
This week I was shocked to find out that I was the victim of a Personal Banking Scam. I have seen examples throughout my career where vulnerability acts as a magnet. Not all, of course, are technology-related; however, the common denominator is deception and manipulation of those in need. My current medical situation amplified my feelings of vulnerability and made me realise what it feels like to be vulnerable and targeted.
I’m aware from the papers of the last National EOLC Board that the NHS App development is well underway and good progress being made. From a personalised care perspective, this must be good on many levels: access to records, communication with key clinicians, and managing a personalised care plan to name a few. Undoubtedly there will be significant safeguards put in place to protect people’s data, but as technology becomes the norm so does the opportunity for dishonest people to exploit those using them.
In my case, the scammer was skilled, convincing and responded to all the demands to verify who they were, including those recommended by the banks. A call back on the official bank number came to my mobile. Yet it was a scam, and I was taken in by the sophistication of the scammer and the information she had about me.
The good news is that it turned out okay for me on this occasion. Nagging doubt led me to contact the bank again, this time getting through to a trusted professional. Within 10 minutes we recognised what the scammer had done - at one minute past midnight that evening a significant amount of money would be transferred to their account automatically - and the bank's officer able to restore the security of my funds.
The bittersweet sides of technology were exposed throughout this experience. So, how does all of this relate to EOLC and people who by the nature of their needs, through age or conditions, are vulnerable?
I believe there are several key factors to consider:
- The importance of trusted professionals who are trained and responsive to the signs of potential abuse – regardless of the sector
- The importance of key safeguarding messages that need to be regularly and repeated
- The acknowledgment that being vulnerable does not protect us from the actions of scammers, it may even increase the risk
- The importance of friends, relatives or carers to alert vulnerable people to these risks
- Access to information and advice 24/7
My vulnerability and trusting demeanour nearly resulted in me being scammed, but somewhere deep inside I knew things were not right. In this scenario I had access to the bank 24/7 and that saved the day, just in time. As technology continues to develop to enhance our lives, we also need to build in safeguards that protect us from those who wish harm.