How to stop online scammers and fraudsters taking advantage of the elderly

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To add to the stress, fraudsters are exploiting the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus to help commit various types of fraud and cybercrime.

For some people, COVID-19 may increase their susceptibility to the risk of financial abuse due to being home alone, answering telephones, being on the internet more than usual and potentially trusting others with their cash to buy supplies. Both the elderly and those with dementia, who are isolated in their own homes, may be more likely to answer their doorbell and interact with door-to-door scammers.

Tips to avoid scams.

Older people living with dementia may not be familiar with handling emails and surfing the internet, so they can be easy targets for scammers. This may be online or on your doorstep. These people may try to gain entry to your home, get you to reveal sensitive online information or try to sell you something like protective masks or coronavirus testing kits which don’t exist!

  1. If someone is trying to sell you something check you’re buying from a real company. Are there some reviews on the company on a different website. Anyone can put reviews on their own website! Can you check on Which?  You can search for a company’s details on GOV.UK. This will tell you if they’re a registered company or not.
  2. If you decide to go ahead with the purchase, use a credit card if you have one, as most major credit card providers insure online purchases.
  3. If you get an email from a company with a strange email address or one that has never emailed you before asking you for money/payment unexpectedly, don’t click on links to download anything. Doing this could infect your computer with a virus. Make sure your antivirus software is up to date to give you more protection.
  4. There is plenty of COVID-19 information available online from reputable sources, including Alzheimer’s Society, Gov.uk and the WHO.
  5. Don’t feel pressured to accept help from a stranger. Never hand over money, bank details or bank cards to someone you don’t know who is offering to help you. Offers of help for most things should be free of charge, for example, dog walking or fetching medication.
  6. If someone offers to do your shopping, ask for a receipt so that you can pay them on their return to cover the cost of the items.
  7. If someone claims to be from a recognised organisation, then don’t be afraid to ask to see proof (e.g. ID card) or check with the organisation itself.
  8. If possible, call a friend or family member to discuss the help you’ve been offered.

Do remember most people are genuine and want to do whatever they can to help vulnerable and elderly people. Stay safe.