How to protect older people from being scammed
Although anyone can fall foul to fraud, scammers often target the elderly and people with vulnerabilities. According to a report by Age UK, 43% of people aged 65 and over, which is almost five million people – believe they have been targeted by scammers
Elderly people are often targeted by scammers due to social isolation or loneliness, and they’re more likely to be receptive to scammers’ advances.
Sadly, older people often feel ashamed and embarrassed by being scammed – so they may not report the fraud. It’s estimated that only 5% of these crimes are ever reported.
If you’re helping older people to manage their money and keep it safe, it’s useful to know the risks and how to protect against them.
The different types of scams
Scammers can get hold of personal and financial information in many ways. These can include:
- Phone scams: Scammers can try to call their intended victim pretending to be a reputable company, and ask for personal data like a date or birth or passwords.
- Online scams: Like phone scams, these can involve fraudsters trying to access personal information through methods like email phishing.
- Romance scams: Romance scammer tactics can include cybercriminals pretending to be someone they’re not in order to gain trust and steal information.
- SMS scams: Scammers pretend to be a reputable company and send text messages that are designed to steal personal or financial information, or encourage people to download malware onto their phones.
- Postal scams: Scammers send cleverly-written mail which can vary from letters asking for cash to messages from clairvoyants, letters claiming you’ve won a lottery and Ponzi schemes.
Social media scams
If someone has shared personal information on social media - for example, on platforms like Facebook or Twitter - then other people can have access to it. It’s not just obvious information that’s at risk – for example, a photo of a driving licence would give others access to some personal data. Even someone saying that they’re on holiday could let fraudsters know that they’re not at home. That gives them the opportunity to snoop if they know where that person lives.
Social media platforms are great for helping older people maintain social connections, but it’s worth taking steps to ensure that the elderly are staying safe on social media.
How to tell if you’re being scammed
It depends on the type of scam being carried out. Generally speaking, though, there are some key things that you can tell elderly people to look out for:
What you can do if you’ve been scammed
Here are a few practical tips – these aren’t just applicable to elderly relatives, but to anyone:
- Don’t panic.
- Document what’s happened, if possible – keep a log of phone calls, save all emails, and screengrab text messages.
- Contact bank and credit card providers using the number provided on the back of your card, if applicable – their fraud teams can help.
- Report the fraud to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre.
- It’s a good idea to check your credit score to see if there have been any changes due to the suspicious activity. The Equifax Credit Report & Score – which is free for the first 30 days then £7.95 monthly – gives individuals unlimited online access to their own borrowing history and score.
It’s important to stay vigilant and have the necessary measures in place to safeguard against fraud. If you’re concerned about how to protect elderly people online, ensure that they’re comfortable asking if they’ve got any questions or concerns.
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