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September 27, 2021

Lawyers in libraries to help unlock the law

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Legal Aid NSW lawyer and community legal education specialist Lauren Finestone. Photo supplied.
Legal Aid NSW lawyer and community legal education specialist Lauren Finestone. Photo supplied.

Online scammers and the ruses they use to target older people will be laid bare at a series of Law Week workshops delivered by Legal Aid NSW at libraries across the state including Lismore and Murwillumbah.

They will offer expert tips on two wide-ranging legal topics: navigating NSW traffic law, and cyber-safety for older people.

The workshops will highlight the plain-language legal information available in public libraries.

‘Getting behind the wheel of a car or heading online to stay in touch with friends are such normal, everyday experiences that people may underestimate the extent to which they intersect with law,’ Legal Aid NSW lawyer and community legal education specialist Lauren Finestone said.

‘These workshops are all about helping people wise up and stay safe, whether they are on the road or online.’

Ms Finestone said some online fraudsters specifically target older people because they expect them to have access to funds, or see them as less cyber-savvy.

Locally there have also been cases of older people being targeted by phone calls where they are told they owe money to the tax department. They are then asked to go and buy things like iTune cards to pay the debt.

They workshops will take a look at a range of scenarios including investment scams, holiday and competition scams, dating scams and ‘compensation’ scams that re-victimise people who have already fallen for a scam. The safety tips that are being highlighted can also assist people who are targeted in other ways, including over the phone.

In extreme cases, older people who fall prey to scams may fall foul of the law themselves.

In one case, Legal Aid NSW represented an elderly US man who received an email telling him he had won an all-expenses paid overseas trip. The man responded and was then sent flight and accommodation bookings. After travelling to his destination, the man was provided with luggage and invited to extend his holiday with a trip to Australia – but hidden in the lining of the man’s brand new suitcase was a large quantity of cocaine.

‘We have seen cases in which the simple act of logging in and opening an email has been the start of a train of events that has left people in very serious legal trouble,’ Ms Finestone said.

‘Scammers are increasingly sophisticated. They play the long game, and are skilled at knowing what to say to make their claims seem believable.

‘It is a myth that only gullible or greedy people fall for online scams. That’s why it’s so important that people learn to recognise the warning signs, and know what to do to safeguard their personal information.’

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