Concerns for vulnerable older people are mounting as reports of scams and telephone fraud escalate.
Recent official crime figures show that an older person in England and Wales becomes a victim of fraud every 40 seconds, according to analysis by Age UK.
West Mercia Police has seen a sharp rise in reported incidents of telephone fraud, including callers pretending to be police officers from the Fraud Squad.
Victims are being told that there has been fraudulent activity on their bank accounts and are asked to transfer money into another account, operated by fraudsters.
Some people have also withdrawn large amounts of money which is later collected on the doorstep by ‘couriers’ working for organised crime gangs who pretend to be from the police or other agencies such as HMRC.
Heather Osborne, Chief Executive of Age UK Shropshire Telford & Wrekin, said: “We are extremely concerned to hear that older people are once again being targeted by criminals in increasingly elaborate and sophisticated scams.
“We urge people to get in touch with family members or older and vulnerable friends and warn them of these latest developments. The effects of fraud on innocent people can be devastating and life-changing, leading to serious damage to health and wellbeing.”
Fraud incidents have increased nationally by nearly 20 per cent to 3.8 million and older people are three times more likely to be a victim of fraud than burglary.
The Crime Survey found that eight per cent of respondents aged 65 and older reported being the victim of fraud in the last year – equivalent to over 800,000 older people in England and Wales.
Graham Donaldson, Rural and Business Crime Officer for Shropshire, emphasised that the police or other professional organisations will never ask for bank details or a withdrawal of money, and warned: “Don’t trust anyone who calls you about your bank details. Always hang up immediately and wait ten minutes then call 101 and report it.
“Do not accept any offers to call them on numbers they supply. The police will never ask you to call 999 unless it is an emergency. Do not use 1471 to try and gain the number called as this may reconnect to the original callers.”
Age UK is calling for a new national strategy to tackle fraud. People looking for advice can call Age UK’s free national advice line all year round on 0800 169 65 65 (lines open 8am – 7pm).
Older people and their families can also find advice on Age UK’s website where there are downloadable guides on Avoiding Scams, Staying Safe and Internet Security at www.ageuk.org.uk/shropshireandtelford/our-services/information-advice/
Age UK’s top five steps to reduce the risk of being scammed:
- STOP – Never do anything you don’t want to or make any decisions on the spot
- CHECK – Always check their credentials
- ASK – Always ask someone you trust for a second opinion
- MINE – Do not give away personal information
- SHARE – Share your experience with others to lower their risk of being scammed