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Older person becomes victim of fraud every 40 seconds

Published on 31 July 2019 12:01 AM

Official crime figures show that an older person in England and Wales becomes a victim of fraud every 40 seconds, according to new analysis by Age UK.

The new finding follows the Charity's analysis of the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW), [i] which interviewed over 34,000 people about their experiences of crime.

The Survey found that almost one in 12 (eight per cent) of respondents aged 65 and older reported being the victim of fraud in the last year [ii] – equivalent to over 800,000 older people in England and Wales.

With the latest figures showing reported fraud incidents increasing by 17 per cent in a year to 3.8 million, people are now nearly three times more likely to be a victim of fraud than to be burgled and nearly 19 times more likely to be a victim of fraud than to be mugged.[iii]

That's why Age UK is calling for a new national strategy to tackle the growing problem of fraud. The Charity argues that whilst there is some good work already taking place, such as the National Trading Standards Scams Team, fraud should become a national policing priority, backed up by much stronger and better coordinated partnership working across police forces, trading standards, banks, adult social care services and other local agencies to combat the rising threat from this type of crime.

Previous Age UK research found that more than two-fifths (43 per cent) of older people – that's almost five million people aged 65+ – believe they have been targeted by scammers at some point.[iv] Fraud affects people of all ages and backgrounds but Age UK's analysis revealed that those older people with higher incomes, or who lived alone, were more likely to report having been a victim of fraud.

Whilst there is increasing awareness of scams sent by email and online romance fraud, older people are often targeted by pension and investment fraud as well as postal, phone and doorstep scams. Financial losses are common, but being scammed can also seriously affect a person's quality of life and wellbeing.

Many people experience a deep sense of shame, embarrassment, anxiety and loss of independence following a scam. Some older people lose their life savings, decimating their retirement income, while those defrauded in their own homes are more likely either to die or go into residential care within a year. [v]

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK, said: "These figures show the shocking extent to which older people continue to be targeted by fraudsters. Ordinary people who have done everything reasonably possible to protect themselves can suffer catastrophic, life-changing losses, destroying not just their finances but their physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing too.

"We urge people to be vigilant and remember, if there is any doubt about the authenticity of an offer or piece of correspondence, do not respond and report it to the authorities immediately.

"The Government, councils, trading standards, police forces and banks all have a big role to play in working together to stop these appalling crimes. A properly prioritised and coordinated national strategy is urgently needed to stamp out the growing threat from fraudsters."

Age UK has developed a range of resources which provide practical steps to ensure older people are able to protect themselves against this type of crime in their home and on their doorstep. People looking for advice can call Age UK's free national advice line all year round on 0800 169 65 65 (lines open 8am – 7pm).

Older people and their families can also find advice on Age UK's website. Covering key areas such as pension scams, nuisance calls, doorstep crimes, investment schemes and online scams, people looking for advice can visit: www.ageuk.org.uk/scams. Here they can also find links to copies of Age UK's free, downloadable guides Avoiding scams, Staying safe and Internet security.

Age UK's top five steps to reduce the risk of being scammed:

  • STOP – Never do anything you don't want to or make any decisions on the spot
  • CHECK – Always check their credentials
  • ASK – Always ask someone you trust for a second opinion
  • MINE – Do not give away personal information
  • SHARE – Share your experience with others to lower their risk of being scammed

-Ends-

[i] The Crime Survey for England and Wales 2017-18, published by the ONS on 25th April 2019, interviewed 34, 715 people aged 16 and over living in households in England and Wales about their experiences of crime in the 12 months prior to the interview (which were conducted between January – December 2018). Read more

These experiences are used to estimate the extent of Crime in England and Wales. The CSEW provides a better reflection of the extent of crime than police recorded figures as the survey asks about crimes that are not reported to or recorded by the police. Read more 

[ii] When 7.8% is projected to the 10,384,697 sample-adjusted population of people aged 65+ in England and Wales (provided by CSEW), it gives an estimate of 803,270 older people as victims of fraud, equivalent to an average of one every 39.26 seconds.

[iii] Crime Survey for England and Wales 2017-18, published by the ONS on 18th July 2019. Interviews were conducted between April 2018 – March 2019 about respondents (people aged 16 and over living in households in England and Wales) experience of crime in the 12 months prior to the interview. Read more

[iv] Download here 

[v] National Trading Standards Scams Team.

Age UK

We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI and our local Age UK partners in England (together the Age UK Family). We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.

Age UK believes that everyone should have the opportunity to make the most of later life, whatever their circumstances. We provide free information, advice and support to over six million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well-being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle.

Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group ("we"). Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity's trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).

For more information

Contact the Age UK Media team on 020 3033 1430 (out of hours: 07071 243 243).

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Last updated: Jul 31 2019

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