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Published on 24 July 2017 09:00 AM

And single people more likely to be duped into responding than married counterparts

More than two-fifths (41.3%) of older people in Scotland – over 400,000 people – believe they have been targeted by scammers, according to new research for Age Scotland and Age UK.(1)  Of those targeted, nearly a tenth (9%) have responded to a scam.  Across the UK, over a quarter (27%) of single older people responded to an attempted scam compared to just under a tenth (9%) of their married counterparts.  

The findings – published to coincide with the week-long focus on older people as part of Scams Awareness Month (2) – reveal further differences in how people respond to scams according to marital status.  Of those who had previously been targeted by scammers, 16% of single older people paid them money, compared to just 6% of those who were married.(3)  And just over a fifth (22%) of those who are single provided personal information compared to just 2% of those who are married.  

As well as marital status, age seems to play a key role, with the findings showing that slightly more people in the 75+ age group pay up or give personal or financial information to the scammers.(4)

Worryingly, the findings show that two-thirds (70%) of those older people in Scotland targeted by scammers didn’t report it to an official channel,5 with two-fifths (42%) only confiding in friends and family, and more than a fifth a quarter (25%) admitting they didn’t tell anyone at all because they felt too embarrassed. Of those who did officially report the scam however, the vast majority reported having a positive experience.

Age Scotland is warning that, although anyone can be scammed, the fact that many older people live alone and/ or with cognitive impairment leaves them more at risk of being targeted.  For this reason the Charity has welcomed funding from the Life Changes Trust to support three local authorities (East Renfrewshire, Angus and South Ayrshire) to work together to develop a preventative approach to protect people with dementia from financial scams. And in addition to the serious financial losses – some people lose their life savings – the evidence shows that being scammed can seriously affect quality of life and wellbeing. Older people can experience embarrassment, shame, depression, social isolation and a decline in physical health, with some people even losing their independence and becoming more in need of care.

Keith Robson, Age Scotland Chief Executive said:

“Scams can have a devastating emotional and financial impact on older victims, seriously damaging their quality of life and wellbeing. That anyone would target an older person to defraud them is abhorrent yet it happens all too often.

“Everyone has the right to feel comfortable, safe and secure at home, yet there are an increasing number of sophisticated scams designed to cheat people of their money, empty their bank account or steal their identity. We are urging all older people, and their friends and families, to be vigilant and get up to speed on how to avoid scams. 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.”

Age Scotland offers free information and advice for anyone who is worried about being scammed, including free guides Avoiding scams, Staying safe and Internet security among others.  To order free copies or for details of other Age Scotland guides, including information and advice needed, people can call the Age Scotland Helpline on Freephone 0800 12 44 222.


  1. Kantar TNS Research Express polling for Age UK, June/ July 2017 – sample of 1,367 people aged 65+ in GB, 199 in Scotland.  The 400,000 figure is extrapolated using population data from National Records of Scotland (i.e. 998,852 people aged 65+ in Scotland (2016 mid-year population estimates); 41.3% of this total is 412,457). 
  2. Scams Awareness Month runs throughout the month of July and is organised by Citizens Advice and Trading Standards Services. For further information please visit their website.
  3. Or living as married. Please note, those who are widowed, divorced or separated are categorised separately and generally came out in between married and single.
  4. Compared to 7% of the overall 65+ sample who responded.  9% of those aged 75+ paid money compared to 5% of 65-74 year olds. 6% of those aged 75+ gave personal information compared to 4% of 65-74 year olds.
  5. An official channel is classed as in this survey as any of the following: a relevant company e.g. bank, Sky, credit card company etc., the police, trading standards/ the council, Action Fraud, Citizens’ Advice, Age Scotland/ local older people’s group, Post Office, other relevant person/ organisation.

In addition, the research found that phishing (electronic communication) was the most common scam (experienced by 39% of those targeted), vishing (verbal communication) was close behind (29%), with rogue trader and card fraud following (14%).