The over-60s must remain on their guard and brush upon their detective skills – to avoid falling foul of a tidal wave of financial scams.
New figures show this age group is now being targeted by conmen. One in five say they have been approached more than ten times by tricksters in the past year with resulting losses amounting to an average £400 each.
Two thirds of older people are anxious about the threat of fraud and admit they are vulnerable because of illness or disability, lack of financial awareness or living alone.
Campaign: Strictly Come Dancing judge Len Goodman is supporting special ‘anti-scam’ classes
Almost one in ten of those who fall for scams blame illness for allowing them to be caught out. Nearly one in five say new technology is making them susceptible to fraud.
From tomorrow, bank Santander will be running special classes in its 806 branches to help customers fight back against the tide of fraudsters.
Its campaign – Scam Avoidance School – is supported by former Strictly Come Dancing judge Len Goodman. In a video, the 75-year-old warns about fraudsters’ tactics – including stealing information via so-called phishing emails, phone calls and texts.
He also gives advice on how to spot a cashpoint machine that has been modified to steal cards or personal details.
Goodman says: ‘People of my age have got to have their wits about them and be more alert to scams.’
Charity Age UK has just launched a pilot programme in London in partnership with national fraud information gathering service Action Fraud to raise awareness among the elderly.
Tips for resisting the fraudsters
PHONE: Never give out personal information. If asked, slam down the receiver.
ONLINE: Never click on unsolicited emails or give personal information unless you are certain the company is genuine.
MOBILE: Beware SMS scams where text messages are used to dupe people into providing key details of their online bank accounts to fraudsters.
PAYMENTS: Double check a destination bank account if making payment by bank transfer.
Always be suspicious if an email arrives asking you to pay into a different account from usual.
The charity says fraud is not just about losing money but the adverse impact it has on a person’s dignity.
It says many who are defrauded feel shame, embarrassment, depression and social isolation. Some become so ill they end up moving into care.
Consumer organisations welcome all steps to raise awareness about scams but want financial companies to do more, especially on bank transfer scams – officially known as ‘authorised push payment scams’.
Panic: Pat Brackenbury, from Central London, nearly fell for a bank scam last year
This is where bank customers are fooled into sending large sums to a fraudulent bank account – which are then immediately withdrawn by the scammer. All the major banks have customers who have lost money this way.
Although scammed consumers who pay using a credit card or cheque have the strong protection of the law on their side, this is not the case when making a bank transfer. Figures published last week show that 44,000 people lost £236 million this way last year.
Money is only retrieved if a bank acts fast to stop the payment being made or requests the receiving bank to freeze the cash. These actions only managed to retrieve about £60 million of the losses last year.
Gareth Shaw, a money expert at consumer group Which?, says: ‘It is positive to see Santander raising awareness of scams among vulnerable customers. But banks should also be doing more to protect customers in the first place.
‘People are still losing life-changing sums of money to bank transfer scams with no protection. About 70 million bank transfers are made each month. You can see how this has become a scammer’s hunting ground. Banks need to keep ahead of them.’
Plans are under way for a much-needed customer reimbursement scheme to be introduced this year.
Pat Brackenbury, from Central London, nearly fell for a bank scam last year. She says: ‘I answered a phone call from someone who said he was from my bank’s head office. He asked if I had made a recent purchase for £98. I had not done so. Alarmed, I gave them remote access to my computer.’
The fraudster displayed her bank statement on the screen and showed purchases she knew she had made, interspersed with false ones. Pat says: ‘I was taken in.’
Shortly afterwards, the screen went blank. She recalls: ‘They told me not to discuss the matter with anyone and they would call me in the morning to put matters right.
‘The next day I woke in a panic.’
Pat, 75, rushed to her bank, Lloyds. She says: ‘A member of staff made some phone calls and helped me sort things out.’
Details about Scam Avoidance School are available from Santander branches. Non-customers can attend.
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