Anyone can become a victim of a scammers’ malicious attempt at fraud – whatever their age – and in this brave new world of technology they can come into our homes without even crossing the threshold – thanks to the phone, emails and text messages.
Most of us have encouraged our elderly loved ones to embrace these new methods of communication; they can be essential tools in staving off loneliness and staying in touch with friends and family….but how can we protect them from scammers who use this technology to prey on the vulnerable?
Reports tell us that in the UK, 43% of those over 65 believe they have been targeted by
scammers – that’s almost 5 million people! And worse, it’s estimated that only around 5% of
these crimes are ever reported, due to older people feeling ashamed or embarrassed that
they were scammed.
Whether your elderly loved ones are independent enough to manage their own finances, or
whether you or someone else is managing it for them, it’s important to know the risks that
are out there – and how to protect against them!
What Types Of Scams Are Out There?
Scammers are adept at getting hold of personal and financial information, and there are a
number of ways in which they do this, including:
A scammer will call a potential victim and pretend to be calling from a
reputable company such as a bank or credit card company. Sometimes they’ll add insult to
injury by pretending to be a scam protection call and will act as if they are calling in your best
Tell an elderly relative that if they receive such a call, and believe it could be genuine, to ask
the person on the phone if they can call them back. An employee from a legitimate company
won’t mind at all! Then, find the company’s official number rather than calling them back on
the same number they called you from. If a company has legitimately called you, you’ll be
able to continue the call from there.
But be warned – some sneaky scammers won’t hang up when you do, and instead play a
dial tone, essentially tricking you into thinking it’s a new call. But guess who answers!?
To safeguard yourself from this I recommend you either don’t call back straightaway, or,
better yet, call from another phone. If you have to use the same phone then call someone
else first (friend/relative), that way if your ‘credit card company’ answers, your suspicions
will be confirmed!
Email Or SMS Scams
The same as a phone scam but via an email or text – and trust me when I say that the email scams in particular can look VERY convincing! Common ones include SKY TV, banks and building societies, and the HMRC – who will NEVER contact you via email or text – only by letter.
Make sure elderly relatives don’t click on links sent via email or texts, and instead find the company’s official contact details via Google or from any official postal correspondence, and give them a call to check the email or text’s authenticity.
Also look out for poor grammar and spelling in emails – or any that start with ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ – that’s a huge red flag!
These are particularly cruel scams that deliberately prey on someone’s loneliness, and more often than not an older person. Does an elderly loved one use social media such as Facebook?
Are they members of online forums for their hobbies and interests? Or do they use sites with the intention of meeting people for friendship or romance? If so, they need to be aware that scammers lurk in all these places too!
It could start out innocently enough – a few online chats, maybe an exchange of phone numbers…but soon requests for money start – just a few quid here and there at first to ‘help
out’, then before you know it your elderly father is paying for someone’s plane ticket with the intention of meeting them and living happily ever after. Except they never show. Heartbreaking – and often – bank breaking!
Of course we don’t want our loved-ones to stop going online – it can be a lifeline for many
people – but remind them that if something (or someone!) seems too good to be true, it
normally is, and even if you really feel that you’ve made a friend, never send money or give
out your bank details.
There are literally dozens of cases of older people being scammed out of hundreds of thousands of pounds, when they thought they had found friendship or
What Are Some Of The Signs To Look For?
Scammers and their tactics vary, but some key things to tell your elderly loved-ones to look
out for include:
● Someone who can’t provide proof that they are who they say they are.
● Someone asking for personal information such as passwords or bank details
● Someone who calls regularly and becomes aggressive when told you’re not
interested in what they’re selling/offering – and particularly if they become angry when
you ask if you can call them back or speak to someone in charge.
What Should You Do If Your Loved-One Gets Scammed?
● First of all reassure them that there is no need to be embarrassed – anyone can fall victim to scammers, age is irrelevant. And that second of all – the scam needs to be reported.
● Get together a log of all the phone calls that have been received, as well as all the
emails and text messages as evidence. Contact the bank and any credit card providers – their fraud teams will be able to help you stop any outgoing payments, and, depending on the type of scam, possibly even get some of your money back.
● Get them to check their credit score to make sure there aren’t any changes due to suspicious activity they might not be aware of.
● Report the scam to the police – you can do this anonymously through their ActionFraud website
or by calling the Action Fraud hotline.
Staying vigilant is our best defence against fraud, and if we have elderly loved-ones then we
need to stay vigilant for them too to stop scammers from taking advantage.
If you have any concerns or questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.