I was frightened. I was really frightened … it was one of the worst experiences you could really have.”
This evening on the Tonight programme: how fraudsters and thieves are targeting our elderly loved ones, and what you can do to protect yourself and your family from becoming victims.
With fraud rising steeply, and our ageing population increasingly threatened, reporter Fiona Foster meets four people who’ve sadly experienced financial abuse first-hand.
Their stories, told exclusively to Tonight help to expose the fraudsters’ tactics and the increasingly sophisticated ways that criminals convince people to part with their cash.
Statistics released last week show that every 15 seconds, someone in the UK reports a fraud. That’s nearly 6,000 people every day. And the police tell us that there may be hundreds more which go unreported.
People are embarrassed to admit that they have fallen victim to it - they are embarrassed to say that they have been foolish and they have been taken in.”
The problem is so acute that police forces around the country are pouring resources into tackling fraud, and working with banks and other financial institutions to make sure they’re on the lookout for suspicious transactions and withdrawals.
One relatively new crime is courier fraud, where fraudsters call people at home pretending to be the police, or another authority. They persuade their victims to withdraw large sums of money, or even buy luxury items - like watches, or expensive jewellery, then hand them over to a courier, never to be seen again. It’s a crime worth millions, and one the police are keen to stop in its tracks.
If you, or your family are worried about financial abuse of an elderly loved one, you can contact charities such as Action on Elder Abuse, talk to professionals such as your GP or social worker about your concerns, or you could ask to speak to your local council's Adult Safeguarding team or co-ordinator.
You can report frauds to Action Fraud . Alternatively if you believe a crime is being, or has been, committed – whether it's physical abuse or financial – you can talk to the police. If you or someone else is in immediate danger or risk of harm dial 999, otherwise you can call 101, the non-emergency number.
Keep your money safe with these tips from Sussex Police:
Check people are who they say they are. Not sure? Don’t open the door!
Never send or give money to people you don’t know or trust
Remember to protect your identity – don’t share your personal information with unexpected callers
Beware of email and computer scams. Treat all emails from unknown senders with suspicion and never click on links within them
Never share your PIN number or enter your PIN into a telephone
If in doubt, phone a relative, friend or someone you know personally.