Older people are often targeted by scammers. A report from the Centre for Counter Fraud Studies warned that the over- 65s are three times more likely to lose money to fraudsters than to be burgled. Professor Mark Button, director of the fraud studies centre estimated that around 10% of the 3.2 million annual frauds are perpetrated against the elderly including identity theft, fake fees for services and online shopping scams. The report also advises of scams by bogus charities, investment fraud, fake competitions and false claims for debt.
Anyone can fall victim to a scam but older people can be at greater risk because scammers tend to target people who:
- Live alone
- Are at home during the day
- Have savings or valuables
- Are more likely to talk to them
The research says that elderly people can be left with feelings of “anger, stress, upset, ridicule and embarrassment” from their experiences of fraud contributing to the “loneliness epidemic” facing them. Professor Button went on to add that a “generational politeness” could prevent the elderly from stopping engaging with fraudsters.
Professor Keith Brown of Bournemouth University has lead research for the Chartered Trading Standards Institute in the field of financial fraud and scams prevention. He cites evidence of legitimate companies targeting and repeat selling to vulnerable individuals. He also gives examples of his own mother being scammed by paying £3000 for unnecessary vitamin D supplements and £600 for having her front drive pressure washed. The law, however, does little to help by offering protective measures. A person suffering from the early stages of dementia certainly has some form of cognitive impairment but does not actually lack capacity which would elicit legal protection. Also making an unwise decision in paying way over the odds for something is unfortunately not an immediate reason for intervention.
What is extremely sad is that some older people enjoy the social interaction that scamming brings to break the cycle of loneliness. Professor Brown describes examples of older people pulling out their call- blocking devices or buying unnecessary products as delivery of these items is the highlight of their day.
According to charity Age UK, more than one million older people regularly go an entire month without speaking to anyone. As people grow older they are more likely to lose loved ones and may live alone. They are also more likely to experience health problems which can make it harder to get out and about. All of these can increase feelings of loneliness and isolation making our elderly population at risk of fraud.