"I desperately need to know what to do.” Addressing cyberscams in acquired brain injury (ABI): A qualitative exploration of the experiences and approaches of Australian clinicians and service providers

Kimberly Chew, Jennie Ponsford, Kate Gould

Background: Anyone can be scammed, however, post-injury cognitive and psychosocial consequences experienced by people with ABI may place them at higher risk. Scams result in financial loss and deleterious psychological impacts such as shame and mistrust, and also interfere with neurorehabilitation. Despite these significant consequences, there are no available psychological treatments tailored to cyberscam recovery. Little is also known about how the current workforce is addressing cyberscams in people with ABI.

Aim: To understand the perspectives and needs of ABI clinicians and service providers in addressing cyberscams in people with ABI.

Methods: Qualitative study design. Eighteen Australian multi-disciplinary clinicians and service providers were recruited through purposive sampling. Semi-structured interviews explored current treatments, effectiveness of interventions used and recommendations for future cybersafety recovery interventions.

Results: Reflexive thematic analysis identified eight themes related to scam vulnerabilities and impacts: “Really? I didn’t see that: Executive Difficulties”; “CyberAbility”; “Financial Stress and Independence”; “Not Coping with the Loss of it All”; “Strong Reactions of Trusted Others”; “Scammer Influence”; “Presence/Absence of Trusted Relationship”; and “Nothing Structured To Do”. Each theme directly related to clinical recommendations such as providing psychological and cognitive support, upskilling in financial and cybersafety management, increasing meaningful social engagement, and working collaboratively with families and clinical support teams.

Conclusions: Treatment recommendations specific to each vulnerability and impact highlight the need for a flexible approach towards cyberscam recovery and treatment in people with ABI. These findings will inform intervention development through a planned co-design phase.