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Staying protected from fraudsters

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It’s almost unthinkable that anybody could deliberately exploit vulnerable people for sensitive, confidential or financial information. However, fraudsters operate a wide range of scams on a near-daily basis, and it’s increasingly common for older people to be the prime targets.

Research carried out by Age UK has found that around half of over-65s believe that they’ve been targeted by fraudsters in one way or another. Out of those who had been approached, 1 in 12 are reported to have engaged with – and even lost money to – various kinds of scams.

With an aging population and growing numbers of people living with dementia, it’s becoming scarily easier for scammers and fraudsters to exploit whatever vulnerabilities they can find. Coupled with increased opportunities opened up by newer uses of technology, those criminals are consistently coming up with unique ways of targeting innocent people.

So how can we make sure that both us and our loved ones stay protected when it comes to fraudulent activity?

How they operate

It’s important to understand what drives fraudsters in the first place, as well as the techniques they may employ, especially when targeting older people. The majority of scams generally revolve around getting their hands on either money or personal information that could be abused further.

While virtually anyone could become a target for fraud, scammers will generally prey on older members of our society for a number of reasons. Factors common amongst older people – like social isolation, cognitive impairment and recent bereavements – all have the potential to be exploited. This, worryingly, makes them much more vulnerable and susceptible to fraudulent activity than other demographics.

To understand how they might operate, it’s important to look at the psychology of scammers and the techniques they employ. Appearing to be trustworthy and professional allows them to gain a person’s trust and confidence, making it easier to take advantage of at a later time.

On the other side of the coin, urgency and even intimidation can put a lot of pressure on somebody. The main aim of this is for fraudsters to coerce their targets into acting quickly, as well as making them feel reluctant to report it if they feel suspicious.

To make matters worse, those who end up being successfully scammed can end up with their details on a so-called “suckers list” – a list of people who’ve been known to fall for a scam before. The intention behind this kind of list is for criminal networks to share information on potentially easy targets for future scams.

In 2014, the National Trading Standards Scams Team was established, after a police raid uncovered a “suckers list” comprised of over 100,000 victims across the UK. The Trading Standards team now works in partnership with local authorities to help prevent fraud and protect those who may have been affected.

Types of fraud to be aware of

No matter how vigilant we may be, it’s easy to fall victim to fraud for a number of reasons. Fraudsters can strike in various different ways, taking many different approaches. As newer methods are devised, often utilising the latest technologies, it can be difficult to know whether someone really is who they say they are.

Like many of us, older people are now regularly accessing the internet through computers, smartphones and tablets. However, while the technology may come with lots of benefits, it’s important to understand the potential for misuse as well. Computer viruses, phoney websites and scam emails are just a small handful of malicious methods used, all of which are easily avoidable by remaining vigilant online.

Even though cyber-crime is on the rise, traditional methods like postal, telephone and doorstep fraud are still prevalent today.

Whether you receive a letter, phone call or a home visitor, requests for handover of money or personal information should be ringing alarm bells. Even though the literature or the person may appear to be professional, it’s okay to question its validity.

Remember, a real bank or service provider will never contact you out of the blue to request any personal account details. You can always ask for identification when dealing with somebody on your doorstep, allowing you to verify who it is you’re speaking to.

 

If you or your loved ones are still suspicious about any particular activity, you can report it to Action Fraud, which is the UK’s centre for dealing with fraud and cyber-crime.

For an in-depth guide on identifying scams and how to keep yourself and your loved ones protected, Age UK’s website has a section dedicated to providing the right information and advice.