Addressing Cyberscams and Acquired Brain Injury ("I Desperately Need to Know What to Do"): Qualitative Exploration of Clinicians' and Service Providers' Perspectives

J Med Internet Res. 2024 Jan 29:26:e51245. doi: 10.2196/51245.


Background: People with acquired brain injury (ABI) may be more susceptible to scams owing to postinjury cognitive and psychosocial consequences. Cyberscams result in financial loss and debilitating psychological impacts such as shame and mistrust, interference with neurorehabilitation, and reduced independence. Despite these significant consequences, there are no psychological treatments to support cyberscam survivors. There is limited evidence regarding how the current workforce is addressing post-ABI cyberscams.

Objective: This study aims to understand the perspectives and needs of clinicians and service providers in addressing post-ABI cyberscams.

Methods: Overall, 20 multidisciplinary clinicians and service providers were recruited through purposive sampling across Australia. Semistructured interviews explored post-ABI scam experiences and vulnerabilities, treatments and their efficacy, and recommendations for future cybersafety recovery interventions. Reflexive thematic analysis was used.

Results: In total, 8 themes encompassing a biopsychosocial understanding of scam vulnerabilities and impacts were identified: "genuine lack of awareness: cognitive-executive difficulties"; "not coping with the loss of it all"; "needing trust and connection"; "strong reactions of trusted others"; "nothing structured to do"; "financial stress and independence"; "cyberability"; and "scammer persuasion." Each theme informed clinical recommendations including the need to provide psychological and cognitive support, enhance financial and cybersafety skills, promote meaningful social engagement, and foster collaboration between families and clinical support teams.

Conclusions: The multifaceted range of scam vulnerabilities and impacts highlighted the need for individualized, comprehensive, and targeted treatments using a biopsychosocial approach to enable cyberscam recovery among people with ABI. These findings will guide the development of a co-designed intervention.

Keywords: brain injury; cybercrime; cybersafety; cyberscam; cyberscams; disability; fraud; interventions; neurorehabilitation; qualitative; treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Brain Injuries* / therapy
  • Coping Skills
  • Financial Stress
  • Humans
  • Interdisciplinary Studies