Scams that target the elderly - and how to stop them
Why target the elderly?
Elderly people have savings, time and trust - three reasons why scam artists will relentlessly prey on them. They are vulnerable and often alone in the house without a voice of reason or second opinion. They are grateful that the "nice man" has time to talk to them. It has also been found that women are twice as likely to fall for elderly financial abuse than men, possibly because many women of that generation were not used to making financial decisions. They are especially vulnerable after major stress in their life - particularly such as the loss of a spouse, change of housing or health problems.
What are the latest scams?
There are two particular scams doing the rounds at the moment. One is where a vulnerable person is coerced into transferring money into a "safe" account. The other is Courier Fraud, where a courier - pretending to be from police or the bank comes to the person's house to collect cash or bankcards. Often they say that your bank cards have been used fraudulently and you must give them to the police along with your pin. The fraudster is always slick, professional and the call has an urgent tone. They are fast, efficient and take the elderly person unawares. The Metropolitan Police in London estimated there had been more than 2,000 victims of this particular crime in the past two years in Greater London alone.
What are the different ways you can be scammed and how do you stop it?
SCAM 1 - By Post
They offer prizes for competitions you never entered. They will entice you with business opportunities, pyramid selling, or even discount medications. Often the scam here is the premium rate number you have to call to get the prize or you have to give bank details in order to receive what you have been promised.
Take elderly relatives off as many lists as you can by contacting the Mailing Preference Service. This won't cover mail that is unaddressed or from overseas. Give them a specially labelled box - for all the post they want to ask you about. Including urgent competitions, or official looking demands or junk mail. If they put it in there - you can keep track of the mailing lists that they are on. Any call or post that you want to check out - you can do through Age UK Advice on 0800 169 65 65 or Citizens Advice Consumer Service 03454 04 05 06. Leave your parents, relatives, neighbours with these numbers - as often they don't want to admit to you that they have done something silly and they want to call a third party for advice.
SCAM 2 - Telephone
Much of the bank account fraud reported happens over the telephone. Like the courier fraud, people fall for this because they believe the story of the bogus policeman or bank official on the phone can be verified by a follow-up call to their bank. However, when they dial the bank, the scammers don't hang up, so when the victim thinks they are speaking to a bank official, but they are still speaking to the fraudster.
Make sure their number is unlisted by registering them with the Telephone Preference Service. (www.tpsonline.org.uk) It is a legal requirement for telemarketers not to call a TPS subscribed number after 28 days. However, fraudsters are not going to respect the TPS register - so you need to leave right by the phone, in big clear letters:
DO NOT GIVE ANYONE - EVEN IF THEY SAY FROM THE BANK OR POLICE- YOUR BANK DETAILS
DO NOT GIVE OUT YOUR CREDIT CARD DETAILS
SAY YOU HAVE SOMEONE WITH YOU RIGHT NOW - TAKE A NAME AND NUMBER TO CALL THEM BACK (PASS IT TO ON ME)
Also leave a pen and a pad by the phone - write down the name, number and subject of EVERYBODY that calls.
SCAM 3 - Email & Text
The elderly may be targeted with 'hard luck' stories, for example someone saying their grandchild needs help or someone wanting donations to fake charities after a disaster.
Alice’s Top 5 Tips
Poor spelling and grammar or badly positioned text on page
It comes out of the blue – you didn’t initiate contact
What does it want you to do / give them? Is it looking for information or for you to click through to another site – neither of which you should do.
Make sure you have downloaded effective protection in terms of firewalls / security system.
You don't have to go as far as having power of Attorney over their bank - but if it's a close relative - you could have their online log in details or ask their account manager to alert you if their are any sudden withdrawals or unusual activity. Again ask your bank to set up a password system - that they should never reveal to anyone. Then they will know that it is genuinely the bank calling.
SCAM 4 - Doorstep
People will target areas where they know there is a high population of elderly relatives. They knock on their door and offer unsuitable and expensive goods or services. They offer them fire safety equipment, carpet cleaning, tell them they have something wrong with the roof or that the guttering falling down.
Put a sign on front of door saying NO COLD CALLERS, fit a chain, a spy-hole and a sign on the back reminding them to never let a maintenance or service man in without an appointment. Always check ID of someone you are expecting (pre arranged passwords are available from all gas electricity and water companies.) A really good source of help is Age UK www.ageuk.org.uk 0800 169 65 65 - they can help advise on a trusted handyman to fit door chains and viewers.
What can we do to help a relative or elderly neighbour
It is really important that you handle it all in a sensitive way. Elderly people are often clinging onto their independence and don't want us interfering. Don't just go in all guns blazing telling them to hang up, throw out the letters or just don't answer the door. It doesn't work - because you become the bossy one and the gentle soul on the doorstep or on the phone becomes the one they listen to. You do need to have a calm conversation covering trusting strangers, unsolicited postal and email and unexpected phone calls.
Two final things to remember - a conman or woman will often start their pitch with… "you know there have been a lot of stories of people being scammed or conned, I can help you..." Also please remember that one million older people in the UK haven't spoken to anyone for a month - please don't assume the lady next door has a relative to do this for them.
The Trading Standards Institute is launching a video competition to get people actively helping the elderly and vulnerable. They are asking people to create a 90 second "Good Neighbours Stop Rogue Traders" informational video. To encourage friends, family neighbours and carers to help protect vulnerable citizens against doorstep crime.
If you think someone you know is being targeted by bogus traders call Consumer Direct - 03454 04 05 06 or report to Police on 101. There is also information on the Action Fraud website www.actionfraud.police.uk and you can give information anonymously calling the c Scams
Every day, people throughout the UK are falling victim to scams of one kind or another. It could be an unexpected prize draw or lottery win, or a chance to invest in an exciting new money-making or investment programme. But remember - if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Citizen’s Advice Bureau - Scams
Citizens Advice Consumer Service 03454 04 05 06
Scams are schemes to cheat people out of their money. Other names for scam include fraud, hoax, con or swindle. Scams come in a variety of ways: post, phone, email, online, sometimes with a knock on the door. There are hundreds of scams: fake lotteries and prize draws, bogus health cures, dodgy investment schemes, pyramid selling, phishing - to name just a few. New scams appear as more people become aware of them and as criminals try to keep one step ahead. Every year more than three million people in the UK fall victim to scams losing hundreds and even thousands of pounds. It is estimated that nearly half of people in the UK (48 per cent) have been targeted by a scam and that £3.5 billion is lost to scams every year.
Victim Support – Are You OK?
Victim Supportline: 0808 16 89 111
Victim Support is the independent national charity which helps people cope with the effects of crime. They provide free and confidential support to help you deal with your experience, whether or not you report the crime as well as helping witnesses cope in going to court. Our trained volunteers offer someone to talk to in confidence, information on police and court procedures, help in dealing with other organisations, information about compensation and insurance as well as links to other sources of help.
Helpline: 0300 123 2040
Have you been defrauded and not got your money back? If the answer is yes, please get in touch. We are here to help you. The aim of this site is for you to report, find support and information to protect yourself against fraud.
Tavis House1-6 Tavistock SquareLondon WC1H 9NA
Helpline: 0800 169 6565
We believe that age needs respect. It needs kindness. Sometimes it needs help. Age UK aims to improve later life for everyone through our information and advice, services, campaigns, products, training and research.
Independent Age (Advice and Support for Older Age)
6 Avonmore RoadLondon W14 8RL
Advice line: 0845 262 1863 (local rate)
We are an established voice for older people, providing the ‘ABC’ of advice, befriending and campaigning. Our free advice service offers unrivalled expertise on social care and welfare benefits, particularly on complex issues such as social care funding. Our range of detailed guides and factsheets provide information on the most common issues faced by older people, their families and carers. Our Wise Guides provide practical, accessible advice and information for the over-65s on finances, staying independent and getting the most out of later life and our befriending and practical support services provide crucial companionship, comfort and security for as long as it's needed - if necessary, for life.
The Think Jessica campaign was started by Jessica's daughter Marilyn Baldwin in 2007 after five years of struggling to find help for her mother. Her aim was to educate others about the powerful phycology criminals use to trap their targets and make them understand how this is strong enough to turn them against their loved ones and those trying to help them. Think Jessica is now a registered charity supported by countless agencies, organisations and police forces nationwide and is committed to making people aware of the danger and financial implications caused by postal and telephone scams, educating professionals and protecting the most vulnerable members of our society from illegal practices.
Metropolitan Police – The Little Book of Big Scams (PDF)
The little book of big scams contains a number of hints and tips to stop you becoming a victim of fraud.
Snopes – Fraud & Scams
The definitive internet reference source for scams
FSA (Financial Services Authority) - Scams
Consumer Helpline: 0800 111 6768
The FSA is an independent body that regulates the financial services industry in the UK, who promote efficient, orderly and fair markets by helping retail consumers achieve a fair deal.