According to research undertaken for Age UK in 2017, almost 5 million people aged 65 or over in the UK believe that they have been targeted by scammers. Additionally, the National Trading Standards Scams team report that the average age of postal fraud victims is 75 years old.
For those with elderly parents who may be more vulnerable, it can be extremely worrying if you believe that fraudsters are looking to take advantage.
Warning signs that an older person is being targeted
While in some cases, your elderly relative may not even be aware that they are being scammed, there are some signals that you can watch out for. Some indications can include
- Evidence of large unexplained cash withdrawals or cheque payments
- They are short of money when that should not be the case
- They have a larger than usual amount of post or letters around the house
- They are becoming secretive about their finances
- They are upset or anxious and won't disclose why
Type of fraud committed against elderly people
Doorstep scams can range from a person trying to gain access to your relatives home by way of appearing at the front door as a utility worker or tradesperson with the aim of burglary, or to hard sell products that are neither wanted nor needed, to rogue traders who tell your relative that there is urgent work that needs to be carried out, such as window or boiler replacement which is not actually required.
How to avoid them
Speak to your relative about the risks of distraction crimes and rogue traders, this will help them to make better decisions about when and when not to answer their door. On a practical level, it can be worth working with your parent to create a 'script' that they use when someone is trying to pressurize them into buying - such as 'I never make a decision without consulting my solicitor' or 'I don't ever use a trader without properly checking them out first'. In some cases, it can also be worth investing in either a real or even fake CCTV camera over a front door.
Postal scam letters tend to grab attention by telling the reader that they have won a prize, or have been chosen to take part in a great money-making or investment scheme. They can be written in a way that looks likes they come from a reputable company, bank or authority, so it can be difficult to identify that they are, in fact, a scam.
How to avoid postal fraud
Tell your relatives to never respond to any request for money that comes through the post. If the letter appears to be from somewhere offical, such as their bank or pension provider, tell them to contact them directly (not through any contact numbers given on the letter) to verify. You can also register with the Mailing Preference Service to help to avoid getting junk mail.
While most people are aware of email scams where the sender asks for money, tactics are getting more sophisticated. Fraudsters may send emails that appear to be from your relative's bank, utility provider, or in some cases send emails from fake PayPal pages, or send invoice requests.
How to help your loved one to avoid email scams
Ensure that their computer is protected by the latest security and antivirus software to help to prevent them from downloading or clicking links from sites that are likely to be scammers. If they receive an email from a bank or institution, like with the postal scams, ensure that they contact them directly by telephone on the established phone number (not the one provided on the email). Most importantly, make sure that they are aware that these types of scam exist.
Investment and Pension Fraud
A fifth of elderly people who have fallen prey to investment scams, don't actually report them, which sadly exacerbates the issue. There are a wide number of investment scams, and the elderly are particularly targeted as they tend to be focussed on their financial affairs.
Avoiding investment and pension scammers
To avoid your parents or other relatives falling for this type of scam, it's vital that you keep your lines of communication open. Speak to them regularly about the types of scam out there and ensure that you speak to them about their investments if you can.
Telephone scammers are getting smarter. In addition to high pressure selling tactics, they can also use the telephone to try and get hold of personal details such as banking information and passwords. They may pretend to be a utility provider and suggest that the service is about to be cut off, or crueller still, pose as the bank and suggest that there has been a fraud commited on the account and they need the details from your relative to solve it.
Helping elderly relatives to avoid telephone scams
Ensure that your relatives are aware of just how sophisticated telephone fraudsters are. Tell them never to give out password information over the telephone. They can also register with the Telephone Preference Service to help to eradicate nuisance or fraudulent calls.