Scams: Ripping Off the Elderly? - Tonight

A ITV TONIGHT investigation has found a spike in lockdown fraud, by callous scammers,  for the over 55s.

Since the start of March to July 2020 - 36,555 victims of fraud, over the age of 55, reported losses of nearly a quarter of a Billion pounds to criminals (£220,186,002).   Compared to the same time last year the losses were £47m (£46,540,006) more for the over 55s.

Graham from Preston knows too well about scammers:  “I was getting stories, from my father, stepmother, about they’d been taken by him to various banks to sign various forms.”

The elderly couple in their eighties were targeted by Manchester scammer and career conman Syed Arfat Bukhari, who pretended to work in bank security.

 Detective Inspector Atkinson is head of Economic Crime at Lancashire Police: “Unfortunately, because he'd taken the couple into his trust, he was able to manipulate documents. 

“He drove them around from various banks, reinstating some lapsed accounts, transferring money, through various bank accounts, and basically, with the ability to effectively sign, on their behalf. 

“Unfortunately, they were blissfully unaware of what was happening, under their noses.”

From November 2017 to February 2018, Bukhari conned the couple out of their life savings, amassing large credit cards and loans, as well as selling their house - all to the tune of half a million pounds. 

“It was the lifestyle of a rock star, or footballer. He was jetting off to Dubai business class. Luxury hotels. Fast cars. Champagne lifestyle,” he said.

“He got a hairpiece because he was going bald. All on my parents’ money.”

Fraudsters are taking advantage of the current economic climate. 

Sarah Coles is a Personal finance analyst for Hargreaves Lansdown: “Right at the beginning of lockdown, there was a big fall in the stock markets,”

“And so some people got a bit concerned about what that meant for the future of their stock market holdings.”

She added at the start of lockdown banks also cut interest rates on savings: “And so there were different groups of people who for different reasons, were trying to look for alternatives, that they felt were more suitable, and were safer.”

But those investments are not safe, if scammers are targeting them.

Wendy Martin from National Trading Standards said there are three common types of scams that target the elderly:  “Firstly, is mass marketing fraud. So, this is where you get letters through the post. Anything designed to get you to send money, for either valueless or nonexistent prizes. 

“Telephone scams, people, often trying to get financial or identity details, from you,” she added. “The third one, is doorstep crime, usually aggressive sales techniques, getting you to purchase unnecessary building work, or massively overpriced.”

One group of criminals running a particular scam, will put a list together, of people that they've managed to exploit, and then they will sell that list to other criminals, who might be running a similar or different type of scam. So, it allows the victim to be targeted, over and over again.

Wendy Martin, National Trading Standards

Clinton Blackburn is a commander with The City of London police and is an Action Fraud spokesman, he says ‘they will then commit further fraud, on the back of that something we refer to as recovery fraud’.

“They’ll be re-contacted,” he explained.

“They'll purport to be from the bank. They'll be offering you protect advice. They'll be talking about changing your passwords, moving your money again.  

“So, these are really, really clever people. They know what they're doing. They study people, for months on end, and they are convincing.“

The most common types of fraud for the over 55s, according to Action Fraud,  were Advance fee frauds, computer software service fraud. Online shopping and auctions and cheque, bank card and online bank fraud. 

If you think you think you have been the victim of a scam then either report it to the police, Citizens Advice or Action Fraud.

For more information, watch ITV TONIGHT's 'Scams: Ripping off the Elderly?' on ITV this Thursday (17th September) at 7:30pm.