How to protect older people from being scammed

How can you keep elderly parents and friends safe online?

Although anyone can fall foul to fraud, scammers often target older, vulnerable people. 5 million people surveyed by Age UK in 2017 who were aged 65 and over believed that they had been targeted by fraudsters. 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.

Different types of online 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.
  • Internet 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.

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.

It’s not that social platforms are all bad, though. They’re useful for connecting people, but it’s worth taking steps to ensure that your parents are staying safe on social media.

How to tell if you’re being scammed

This would depend on the type of scam being carried out. Generally speaking, though, there are some key things that you can tell your parents to look out for:

  • If the person is unable to provide proof that they’re who they say they are.
  • If someone asks for bank details or other important personal information or documents.
  • If they’re hassling your relative or speaking to them in an aggressive manner – this could also be an indication that they’re up to no good.

What you can do if you’ve been scammed

Here are a few tips – these aren’t just applicable to elderly relatives, but to anyone:

  • Don’t panic.
  • Document what’s happened, if possible.
  • Contact bank and credit card providers, if applicable – their fraud teams can help.
  • Report it to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre.
  • See if they want to check their credit score to see if there have been any changes due to 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 parents online, ensure that they’re comfortable asking if they’ve got any questions or concerns.


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