UNDERSTANDING ELDERLY FRAUD AND MONEY SCAM RISKS
Anyone can fall victim to a scam, regardless of age, education or financial circumstances – we are all vulnerable to the perpetrators. The trouble is that with the advancement of online/internet and computerised technology, the more sophisticated our processes become, the more sophisticated the scammers get.
It is possible for example, that the elderly may be particularly vulnerable because scammers can specifically target those who are more likely to ‘be in’ at home alone, or that might feel lonely and ‘want to talk’. There is also the possibility that, in terms of a straightforward theft, older people who have money or valuables in their house may be less physically able to ‘keep an eye’ on cold-callers if they allow them into their home. We at ILA.life help older people to live in their own home and this is one of the things that we keep coming across with the older people which is their uncertainty about technology, viruses, and scams.
In fact, 53% of over-65s are regularly targeted by scams, generally costing an average of more than £1,000 and according to Age UK, are two and half more times likely to subsequently go into a care home.
There are many different kinds of scams but there are many things we can do to protect ourselves. Knowing and understanding some of the common themes is key to recognising the danger and therefore, avoiding becoming the victim.
So what is a scam? A scam is a dishonest way to make money by deceiving people and it may be carried out in a number of ways:
By phone or text.
On rare occasions, bogus callers can attempt to get into a person’s home in order to steal possessions or personal details. For example, they might be strangers who ask to use a phone because of an emergency, or people who might pose as officials. The latter may even have fake uniforms and ID. It is worth remembering therefore, that there is no obligation to let anyone into your house if you don’t want to, and in any case, you should always check the ID thoroughly.
One common scam is for someone to pretend to be from the bank and come to collect a credit or debit card, claiming that there has been a ‘problem with it’. Don’t be fooled – banks never do this!
HOW to MINIMISE The ELDERLY FRAUD AND MONEY SCAM RISKS?
It is not uncommon for scammers to have researched as much as possible about their target before making contact. Such contact can be very stressful, particularly for the elderly, so we at ILA.life have found the first and most important thing to address is minimising the risk of any such contact. For example:-
Having a “No uninvited traders or cold-callers. By appointment only” sign on the door, (it may be a criminal offence for callers to ignore this);
Making sure that, if you use a computer, you have an up-to-date, anti-virus software and spam filters;
Having a telephone package that screens calls and/or registering with the free Telephone Preference Service.
Another way to minimise the risk is to be on your guard against common themes, such as:
Unsolicited offers that come out of the blue - be they in person, via social media, by e-mail, post, phone or text;
Callers that phone repeatedly and/or stay on the phone for a long-time. They may collect information a little at a time in order to complete the scam later;
Requests to share bank account details, verify a password or PIN. For example, one should avoid ‘refunds’ that can be pledged in e-mails (often claiming to be from HMRC, Royal Mail or delivery companies) asking for bank information;
Recommendations that are stated to be from a friend – particularly via social media. They may not be genuine;
Prizes that ask you to send money or details ‘up front’ in order to claim the ‘winnings’. We sometimes forget that you can’t win money or a prize in a competition if you haven’t entered it, or that being ‘chosen at random’ is extremely unlikely for something you have not signed up to.
Deals that are ‘too good to miss’ or look ‘too good to be true’;
Scams that are in the news. Pension scams are currently particularly prevalent and can have devastating consequences. Avoid any unsolicited offers and if you are not sure who you are dealing with, check by consulting the FCA’s (Financial Conduct Authority) online register or by calling the FCA’s contact centre on 0800 111 6768 to see if the particular company is authorised. The FCA also recommends getting impartial information and advice and you can find out more by going to their website at: fca.org.uk/scamsmart;
Time limited offers which try and pressure you to act quickly;
Requests for payment in advance of work being done (e.g. household repairs);
Scam emails that often feature spelling mistakes;
Companies with vague contact details;
Callers asking for you to call them back on an unusual number, either by phone or text. This could be a premium rate number (e.g. 090) and could cost a significant amount.
Scams where the caller offers you the chance to verify their identity by phoning them back. There have been cases where the caller does not put the receiver down, so that when you dial out again, you are unknowingly connected straight back to them and can end up believing you are speaking securely to a representative of the company. It is always worth making sure that any such caller hangs up before you do.
Callers phoning you and asking you to verify your identity with certain security questions, e.g. mothers’ maiden name, date of birth etc.
‘Cold calls’ are not the only problem of course. Scammers can also often pretend to be someone that the potential victim regularly does business with. They may know this from their previous research or just be taking a guess that the targeted person has a phone contract with say, Vodaphone (a well-known phone supplier). The scammer will likely find a ‘match’ within a certain number of approaches. The best tactic in dealing with this is to wait 20 minutes and then check that the approach is genuine by phoning the alleged supplier back on their official, published number – i.e. not on any number given by the caller, displayed on the phone, or provided to you in an e-mail. If it turns out not to be genuine, you can then block the calling number and/or e-mail.
Another common impersonation is for scammers to claim that they are from a well-known computer supplier (e.g. Microsoft) and asking you to click on a link because of a problem with your computer.
In minimising the risk for online/computer scams, you should:
Have ‘up to date’ anti-virus, spam filtering software;
Try to go onto ‘Trusted’ websites only, by manually typing the link into the browser and saving in it in your Favourites folder for future, rather than using a link from a search engine (e.g. Google). You may not notice a slight variation and end up on a bogus website that mimics the official one. This is called Phishing. It is an easy way to give bank details or passwords away and always look for the secure pre-fix “https://” (padlock symbol);
Never click on an e-mail link unless it is from a totally trusted or independently verified source. Remember that official formats and logos etc can be easily copied.
Never send sensitive, personal information, security details, bank or credit card numbers by e-mail.
The above highlights just some of the ways to reduce the risk of being scammed and outlines some of the common methods used by scammers.
Sadly of course, scammers are continually trying to develop new methods but we at ILA.life know of the importance around finding the right advice on how to minimise the risks. Exercising caution and checking things wherever possible, you are much less likely to be at risk of falling victim to this particularly horrible and insensitive crime.
Cecilia Trueman is a nurse and adviser at Independent Living Advisers (www.ILA.life) a one of the leading elderly home support agency for elderly parents and seniors in Kent, Surrey and Sussex.
Helping to Support Older People with Independent Living.
ILA.life supports older people to live in their own home rather than prematurely move into a care home. ILA.life provides qualified healthcare advisers that work with older people to define, organise and monitor the needed support to live more comfortably in their own home. ILA.life advisers provide regular reviews and quickly identify health, safety or welfare issues. This means that problems can be anticipated and prevented, that relatives can enjoy being with the family-time whilst someone solves the challenges, and that expensive care-home costs can start only if and when they are needed.