Scams cost the UK economy an estimated £10 billion every year with fraudsters becoming increasingly sophisticated in their approach. Scammers prey on the most vulnerable, even sharing information. Scams can be committed over the phone, through the post, on the internet or face-to-face, often on the doorstep. Because older people are more likely to live on their own, and may be isolated and lonely, they become targets for fraudsters.
For some people, their only form of social contact is with commercial organisations, legitimate or fraudulent. They might receive telemarketing calls, emails, letters or open the door to a scammer purporting to be a bona fide salesman or tradesman. Sometimes strong relationships can be forged between scammer and victim. Once someone has been targeted once their details are added to what is known as ‘suckers list’ which is sold on to other criminals so the victim is targeted again and again.
Being targeted by scams can have devastating effects on victims; loss of confidence, fear of answering the phone or the door, increased social isolation, anger, stress, depression, and fear for the future. In extreme cases victims attempt or even commit suicide. People who have been defrauded in their own homes are two and a half times more likely to die or go into residential care within a year.
Trading Standards is an enforcement agency with powers to prosecute under certain legislation but also take a softer approach to support victims:
- Home visits
- Telephone advice
- Tips on handling cold calls
- Local group discussions
- Updates on scams in the area
- iCAN system which is used to broadcast timely warnings via email or voicemail to members
- Help to access other services
- Small number of free call blockers that we can fit
How to spot a scam victim:
- Unusual amounts of post or letters in their home
- Boxes of goods such as vitamins/alternative medicines, biscuits, toiletries/cleaning materials
- Evidence of large cash withdrawals or multiple cheque payments
- Lack of money to pay for other things such as food and bills
- Lots of phone calls from strangers or companies
- Increase in withdrawal or social isolation
If you think that one of your service users is at risk, please contact Trading Standards at email@example.com or 0161 912 1377
An advice sheet regarding scams following bereavement is available here. Trading Standards have also produced scams awareness guidance for professionals.