A survey by Age UK has found that 53% of people over 65 believe they’ve been targeted by fraudsters. Many don’t respond to these attempts but of those who do 70% of them said that they had lost money.
The research also shows that a third of older people who responded to a scam may have lost over £1,000 each.
According to the survey,
- over half of those over 65 have received some form of communication – a phone call, text, email, post – they believe to have been a scam,
- 60% of them never report it
- 12% of participants of all ages said that a friend or relative had lost money through a scam in the past two years.
With the new pension freedoms coming into force this week, the charity is warning that people over 55, who will now have access to large pots of pension savings, are likely to be increasingly targeted by fraudsters.
The report from Age UK highlights the tactics used by fraudsters, including
- befriending or `grooming’ potential victims and isolating them from friends and family,
- the use of seemingly professional documentation and official-looking websites,
- impersonating a bank or the police
- threats and intimidation.
The Charity also wants to raise awareness of the effects of being a victim of scams, which can have serious consequences for people’s physical and mental health, as well as their relationships and finances.
- Some victims’ health deteriorates quickly after a scam
- in the worst cases has even resulted in older people losing their independence and needing residential care.
Age UK is calling on the Government to set up a National Scams Task Force.
The Task Force should make tackling scams a priority and report annually to ensure that progress is made.
Age UK also wants to increase awareness of the crime and the levels of sophistication involved so that people feel equipped to challenge and report a potential scam.
People looking for advice can order a copy of Age UK’s free, information guide Staying safe, which can be downloaded from www.ageuk.org.uk or ordered from the Age UK Advice Line on 0800 169 65 65.
Top tips from Age UK for avoiding scams
Don’t rush into anything
If you think you’ve been offered a great deal, don’t agree to it immediately. A genuine offer is unlikely to require an instant decision. Ask your family and friends what they think or call an advice agency such as Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06. For suspected pension scams call The Pensions Advisory Service on 0300 123 1047.
Make sure the company is reputable
Before you commit to buying, check the seller. Does the company have a contact number that works and a postal address, and is it a member of a trade association? Financial companies must be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – you can check at www.fca.org.uk/register or call 0800 111 6768.
Know who’s on your doorstep
If you answer the door to someone you don’t know, ask for an identity card and check it. You could phone the company they represent to check who they are. Think about putting up a notice saying you don’t buy on the doorstep. If you’re suspicious or the caller won’t leave, call 999 and ask for the police.
Be wise to cold call scams
Ignore unsolicited invitations such as letters, emails or phone calls offering a brilliant investment or saying you’ve won a lottery. Ignore them and never reply – it shows your details are active which will encourage scammers to contact you again. Contact the Mailing Preference Service on 0845 703 4599 to have your name taken off UK direct mailing lists. Check your email account is set up to filter spam.
Be aware of new pension scams
New rules allowing people to access their pension pots from age 55 have brought with them new scams. Be cautious of anyone that claims to know about loopholes, talks about overseas investments or says you can get your money before age 55. The FCA lists current scams at www.fca.gov.uk/scamsmart. Visit the Government’s Pension Wise website for free and impartial guidance on your pension options.
Anyone can be taken in by a scam, so don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed if it happens to you. If you think you’ve been scammed, or you’ve spotted a scam contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to report it and get help. See our free guide Avoiding scams or visit our scams page at www.ageuk.org.uk/money-matters/consumer-advice/scams-advice/
Have you been contacted by someone trying to sell you a ‘great’ investment? Tell us about it in the comments below – warn everyone else!