Stop online scams and fraudsters taking advantage of the elderly

Both the elderly and those with dementia, who are isolated in their own homes, are increasingly vulnerable to financial abuse.

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According to new research “The scale of intimidation and fear unleashed on older people by these scams is shocking. It’s causing tremendous distress leading to more isolation”.

Types of scam and what to do

Older people living with dementia may not be familiar with handling emails, surfing the internet or dealing with strangers, so they can be easy targets.

Fraudsters may try to gain entry to your home, get you to reveal sensitive online information, or try to sell you something.

Phone Scams

  • The majority of these scams are telephone related: landline, mobile or text. Don’t forget your mobile can be targetted as well. 
  • Calls supposedly from your bank or the police about your credit/debit card or bank account, They may ask for bank details or a PIN. A bank would never do this.
  • Scammers often ask you to do something immediately to prevent something worse from happening. If you’re feeling pressurised or worried it’s probably a scam, Stop, take your time and if in doubt, write down a number and hang up. Call your bank or the company they are referring to elsewhere then cross-check this.
  • Pushy sales calls or investment opportunities that seem too good to be true.
  • Calls about your computer. They may say your computer has a virus and ask you to download software that will actually ‘infect’ your computer and spy on it.
  • Calls about your council tax saying you may have a rebate. This will not not happen out of the blue.

What to do

  • Say no do not reveal personal information, report any scams.
  • Check the line, scammers can keep your phone line open even after you’ve hung up. Use another phone or wait 15 minutes until they have hung up.
  • Try call blocking. You can buy a call blockers from retailers.
  • Join the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) 
  • Contact Action Fraud to report a scam.

Email and Online Scams

  • Fake websites often look the same, but the website url/address is slightly different to the real site e.g. there maybe one extra letter or a letter omitted.
  • Emails with attachments, some of which contain viruses that infect your computer.
  • Tax refund emails offering you a rebate. HMRC would never email you to give you a refund and ask for your details online.
  • Emails from a stranded friend abroad who needs help. A hacker has broken into a person’s email address and they are asking for money.

What to do

  • Use strong passwords
  • Ignore attahcments and don’t click on links unless you know they are from a safe source. If in doubt don’t click.
  • Don’t reply to an email scam it will only result in more scam emails.
  • Filter junk emails and install anti-virus software. Check it is up to date.
  • Check you’re buying from a real company. Are there some reviews on the company on a different website? You can search for a company’s details on GOV.UK. This will tell you if they’re a registered company or not.
  • 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.

Doorstep scams

They often target older people knocking on your door pretending to be a trader, charity collector or simply in need of help. Watch out for:

  • Traders who say they have noticed something wrong with your property that they can fix.
  • Pushy sellers with large discounts.
  • People who claim to be from a utility company but have don’t have an official ID badge.
  • Deliveries of goods you didn’t order or charity collectors that haven’t got a reigstered charity number.

You should not open the door to people you don’t know.Think :

STOP (are you expecting anyone)

LOCK (other doors before answering)

CHECK (ID or call the number they say they are from)

What to do

Never buy anything from doorstep sellers, once you do they will target you again and again.

  • Ask for a ‘No cold callers ‘sign from your local council or use a printable version to put in your window.
  • Don’t be afraid to say NO and ask them to leave.
  • Never sign anything on the spot and accept things you didn’t order.

Contact Numbers

Action Fraud – Call 0300 123 204 to report a scam
Citizens Advice – Call 03454 04 05 06 for consumer service