July is Scams Awareness Month and an Age UK survey found that 53% of people aged 65 and over have been targeted by fraudsters, and a third who responded to a scam have lost £1,000 or more.
It is estimated that at least 50% of the adult population has been targeted and that UK consumers lost a massive £3.5 billion to scams last year.
Scams can take many forms. As well as 'older' scams carried out on people's doorsteps, fraudsters can target people by online methods, through the mail, phone calls and texts. Tactics include befriending and 'grooming', seemingly professional documentation and websites, impersonating a bank or the police, and intimidation. Scam victims are often added to a list which is sold on, which can lead to increased victimisation.
Older people are at special risk of certain types of scam such as doorstep crime, bank and card account takeover, pension liberation and investment fraud, and they may be especially at risk at particular times through personal circumstances, such as social isolation, cognitive impairment, bereavement and financial pressures.
Doorstep crime and postal fraud are frequently targeted at older people. According to the Trading Standards Institute and Think Jessica (www.thinkjessica.com), people who are older, slightly confused and forgetful are likely to become 'chronic' scam mail victims.
The financial implications can be drastic and long-lasting, but scams affect self-esteem, and victims can suffer stress, anxiety and depression. This may be why less than 5% of scams are reported by their victims.
So, how can you prevent this happening to someone that you know or support? Keep an eye out for the following signs. Do they:
- receive a lot of junk mail?
- have a house full of cheap-looking goods such as jewellery and health products?
- get frequent calls from strangers?
You can ask if they have received any unusual mail or phone calls. Also, if you are aware of a current scam in your area, make sure they know about it and haven’t become involved.
To help keep yourself and others safe from scammers:
- never give your name, address, bank account details or any other personal information.
- speak to someone else before replying to special offers.
- never ring any number you are given to claim a prize or send money to claim a prize.
- sign up to the free Telephone and Mailing Preference Services, which cuts down unwanted phone calls, texts and post.
- if someone is especially vulnerable you could suggest that they get their mail re-directed to a trusted friend or relative.
- pick up a free copy of Age UK's useful booklet on how to protect yourself from a wide range of scams. If you would like one please call us on 01743 233 123.
- take a look at the Scams information and advice section of the Age UK website.
- have a look at the advice on the Think Jessica website www.thinkjessica.com
If you think you are or are about to be a victim of a fraud, it is essential that you report it. These organisations can help:
- Action Fraud UK is the national reporting centre for fraud and internet crime. Use the online fraud reporting services at www.actionfraud.police.uk or ring for advice on preventing fraud and what to do if you fall victim to it on 0300 123 2040.
- Police. Dial 101 for advice and to report fraud.
- Citizens Advice consumer service. They have links with your local Trading Standards Service. Ring 0345 404 0506 or visit www.adviceguide.org.uk
- Victim Support can give emotional and practical support. Contact on 0808 168 9111 or email email@example.com