Why the mentally ill can fall foul of internet scams

Why the mentally ill can fall foul of internet scams

By Liz Lockhart

Recently my Twitter account was hacked into and all of my followers were sent ‘scam’ messages which appeared to come from me.  I was devastated.  The scammers said that I was earning hundreds of dollars a day by working from home.  They were invited to ‘click here’ to see how.

I feel that I was picked out because of my work involvement with mental health.  Many of my followers suffer from mental health conditions which may mean that their ability to maintain full-time employment is impaired.  In an ideal world it would be wonderful, under this circumstance, to work from home, do hours that fit in with disability and earn large sums of money to ease the burden of living on benefits. 

Because my work is ethical and, I hope, well respected, I feel a burden of responsibility to my readers to give accurate and reliable sources of information.  I felt utterly defiled when this hacking took place.  I am told that I was just one of thousands to be hit by this despicable practice – a fact that I found to be of little comfort.

This event led me to think how vulnerable groups of people may be similarly affected.  In my experience, anyone who is or has suffered from mental or physical ill health develops a huge kindness to others who suffer, thus making them all the more open to scams. 

If you are in a social network group for any particular disorder beware that you could be targeted as a result of your association.  Low minded individuals search out groups as ‘easy targets’ for scams. 

Recently a friend of mine gave money to a family who were trying to raise funds for surgery for their terminally ill child.  The appeal for money would tug at the hardest of hearts.  My friend is a young mother herself and felt that if she and her child were in a similar situation she would hope that others would give.  I now point out that she is a member of a couple of ‘young mum online groups or forums’.  Who, more than a new mother, would be more vulnerable to feeling sympathy and consequently give to this cause?   

Perhaps I am a sceptic but I did point out that the majority of these appeals for money are cleverly worded scams.  ‘Oh no’ said my friend ‘nobody would be that dreadful to use a sick child story to extort money.’  Perhaps this was not a scam but in my opinion it probably was.

There are things that we can do to avoid the dangers which we face from scammers, hackers and identity thieves here they are:

  • My number one tip is an old one ‘If it seems too good to be true – it is.’
  • Be wary of schemes that ask for money upfront.
  • Never be pushed into a quick decision.  If an offer is genuine then it will be there tomorrow.
  • Always be wary if an email which claims to be official has spelling or grammar mistakes.  These usually come from abroad.
  • Check your bank statements regularly as early detection always helps.
  • Install antivirus and firewall software on your computer.  There are several to download free.
  • Set your privacy settings on social networking sites to the max.  I was advised to always have letters, numbers and symbols in my password as this is harder to crack.
  • Report anything suspicious to actionfraud.org.uk or call them on 0300 123 2040


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