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Cybercrime - Stay Safe Online

Published on 24 September 2020 10:14 AM

Age UK (national charity) has revealed that cyber criminals stole over £21,950.00 from older people in Cambridgeshire last year.

Age UK Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is a separate independent charity, but a brand partner of the Age UK network. The national charity, Age UK, amongst other work, carries out research which is shared to the Age UK partner network.

According to new cybercrime data acquired by the national Age UK charity, older people in Cambridgeshire lost almost £22,000 last year. A Freedom of Information request to Action Fraud, the national fraud reporting centre, found that the Cambridgeshire Constabulary received 317 reports of cybercrime between April 2018 and March 2019, 62 reports (20%) being from people aged 55 and over. 

Cybercrime, or computer orientated crime, can take many forms but some of the most common examples are phishing, investment fraud, identity theft, fraudulent adverts, and blackmail. This could be a handbag that never materialises, a cryptocurrency investment or an online auction site scam.

Older people who became victims of these crimes in Cambridgeshire reported a total loss of £21,950 during that period. They made up 20% of the overall number of cybercrime victims in the area. However, as it is estimated that only 3% of cybercrime is reported to authorities, the actual figures are likely to be much higher.

Unfortunately, the problem has only got worse during lockdown. Age UK statistics acquired from Action Fraud also revealed older people in England and Wales were scammed out of over £2.4m during lockdown because of COVID-19 related fraud.

There were 3,162 COVID-19 related fraud and cybercrime reports made to Action Fraud between March 23rd 2020 and July 31st 2020. 701 of those reports had a victim aged 55 and over, which accumulated to £2.4 million in reported losses.

To help raise awareness of the problem, Age UK has created an interactive map outlining how many cybercrimes against older people were reported in each regional police force and the amount of money lost. (See Map below)

The ten worst affected regions by total money lost from cybercrime against older people between 2018 and 2019 were:

  1. London: £720,795.31
  2. Dorset: £277,902.00
  3. Staffordshire: £258,144.00
  4. Surrey: £159,967.00
  5. Devon and Cornwall: £156,600.99
  6. West Mercia: £141,372.00
  7. Hampshire: £136,842.00
  8. Essex: £126,590.00
  9. WestYorkshire: £122,521.00
  10. Lincolnshire: £114,475.00

Nationally, the total loss reported from these crimes is £3,741,926.

More older people have been going online to work, shop and keep in touch with friends and family. During lockdown many have felt forced to go online to stay connected, but often without the proper support and guidance that they may want and need, which could put them at extra risk.

Hopefully, the experience has been something they have enjoyed and benefited from and will want to continue. However, unfortunately we also know that cybercriminals were very active in exploiting the situation, seeking to con older people out of their hard-earned cash.

Online crime is often highly sophisticated and tough to spot so anyone can be taken in, but if you are new to the internet and learned to use it in a rush, with little support, you are potentially more vulnerable to being caught out.

Melanie Wicklen, Chief Executive AGEUKCAP, said

“No one should feel ashamed to ask for help from family and friends and for all of us, whether we are experienced computer users or not, sticking to the simple online safety rules remains tremendously important. These include being on the alert at all times for the risk of a scam, not opening attachments in emails that come from an unknown source and remembering that if we are offered an online deal that looks too good to be true it almost certainly is.

“Fraud and cybercrime can have catastrophic and life changing effects, not just financially, but on older people’s health and wellbeing. It can also have a massive impact on their confidence and can lead them to stopping going online altogether. Since lockdown began there have been over 3,000 reports of fraud and cybercrime from people aged 55 and over. We know it is a hugely underreported crime, so these figures are likely to just be the tip of the iceberg. 

All this means that older people, like everyone else, need to go online with their eyes wide open to the potential risks, but the internet still has a huge amount to offer and we recommend anyone who hasn’t yet taken the plunge to do so, preferably with some help and support.”

The majority of the fraud linked to coronavirus involves online purchases for personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks that never arrive. Criminals have also been sending phishing emails and texts claiming to be from the Government, HMRC, BBC TV licencing and health bodies to convince the recipient to open links or attachments and get them to reveal personal or financial information.

Top tips for avoiding online scams:

  1. Stay safe online

If you use a computer, don’t open emails or attachments from people you don’t know. Make sure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus software and ignore any phone calls that say your computer has a problem or a virus, as this is a scam. 

  1. Make sure the company you are buying from online is reputable

Before you commit to buying, check the seller. Does the company have a contact number that works and a postal address, and is it a member of a trade association? Financial companies must be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – you can check at www.fca.org.uk/register or call 0800 111 6768.

  1. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is

Ignore emails offering a brilliant investment. Ignore these offers and never reply – it shows your details are active which will encourage scammers to contact you again. 

  1. Report it

Anyone can be taken in by a scam, so don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed if it happens to you. If you think you’ve been scammed, or you’ve spotted a scam contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to report it and get help. 

 

If you are worried contact our HELPLINE 0300 666 9860 for advice.

 

NOTES:

Data:
In April 2020, Click Consult submitted a Freedom of Information request to Action Fraud on behalf of Age UK about the number of older people (aged 55 and over) reporting to have been affected by Cybercrime. The data provided covered the period between April 2018 – March 2019. Action Fraud provided data on:

  • Total number of cybercrime reports made by victims 55+ years old
  • Reports by police force region made by victims 55+ years old
  • Total amount of money lost by individuals aged 55+ across the UK who reported cyber fraud between April 2018 and March 2019
  • Total amount of money lost by individuals aged 55+ in each police force region

More Information

How to keep your money and information safe from scams

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