Friday, 28 September 2018

Britain is no country for more and more old men deliberately targeted by fraudsters because they are old

Britain in 2017 was a country where 49,000 men and women over 60 were known to be victims of fraudsters, which is the equivalent to six every hour and a figure which had doubled over that of three years before. In addition, 1,140 victims were aged over 90 and 13 were over 100. The real figure of victims is likely to have been many more, given the fact that so many scams are unreported.

Professor Keith Brown of Bournemouth University, claimed these reports represented as few as 5% of the true total and said : "It's hugely under-reported - we're talking about millions of victims. If this were burglary or street crime there would be a huge outcry, but it's hidden behind closed doors. Over the next few years this will become the next big scandal like the dawning realisation of the scale of child abuse."

Professor Mark Button, Director of the Fraud Studies Centre, estimates that about 10% of the 3.2 million annual frauds are perpetrated against old men and women and said : "A number wouldn't want to accept that they're a victim. Some wouldn't even realise it's been a fraud. People don't like to feel they've been tricked." He said that a "generational politeness" could prevent old people from stopping engaging with fraudsters, who are deliberately targeting them.

Keith Brown concurs with this when he says of the fraudsters that : "If you're in the early stages of dementia or cognitive decline, you probably don't remember that you gave some money to somebody last week, the week before and the week before and before you know it, the criminals are targeting you like crazy. They just take you for everything and you're just not aware of it because you're not realising that this activity is going on." 
"Joe public doesn't realise that these people in the early stages of dementia are just so vulnerable and particularly those lonely, elderly people, living at home. They haven't got somebody in the house they can just check something with or double check something with and criminals know this." 
"These criminals sound very convincing. Let's not be under any illusion, there is so much money to be made in this form of scamming that they train. They go through all sorts of training courses, They know what to say. They know how to say it and they can convince us and this is the biggest problem. Criminals call these things 'suckers' lists' - an address list of people who are older, in the early years of dementia and they're the most vulnerable things to criminals because that's the sort of person they're going to go after because you can't just scam them once, you can scam them multiple times."

Among those who have been repeatedly scammed is a farmer in Norfolk in his 80s, who has lost £450,000 over six years after fraudsters convinced him he had won £1.5m in a lottery. His daughter-in-law said : "They said all he had to do was send them an administration fee. It started small about £300 and then he should receive the money. but they didn't stop at that. Obviously he didn't get his money and they kept ringing. It's gone out of all proportion since that initial contact. I think the scammers are absolutely evil, but they are also very clever in how they do it and they make it sound very plausible, so much so that it sucked him in and probably hundreds of other people."

Police and trading standards officers in Norfolk have been involved in his case but his family believes he is now "addicted" to his pursuit of a big-money payout and is still trying to send money.

This year the so-called 'advanced fee' frauds, which include victims, like the old farmer, being told they have won a lottery but must pay a fee to receive the prize, have been the most common scams, with almost 20,000 cases - including 370 victims aged over 90. Second up is 'computer software service' fraud, in which victims are told their computer has been compromised by a virus - there were, in total, more than 12,300 cases of this last year.

Research suggests that almost a third of elderly victims of fraud have been too embarrassed to tell their own families or friends what happened to them. A report from the 'Centre for Counter Fraud Studies' warns of the 'stigma' felt by elderly people about being cheated and warned that the over-65s are three times more likely to lose money to fraudsters than to be burgled.

Ironically, the increase in the number of old people going online and thus joining the 21st century has increased their risk of becoming victims of fraud. In the 65 to 74-year-old age range, the study says people are 54 times more likely to be a victim of fraud or computer scams than they are to be physically robbed.

In addition to 'advance fee' frauds and 'computer service software' scams, many old men and women in Britain are assaulted by a battery of :

* bogus charities

* investment fraud

* fake competitions

* health frauds

* false claims for debts

* fraud from identity theft

* inflated or fake fees for services

* online shopping scams.

Old men and women who think you have been scammed, take hope. You have a knight in shining armour in Mark White who has set up a helpline for you called  'Reassura', to give a second opinion and advice to you in situations where you fear you are being defrauded. Mark said that older people needed to see speaking out as a way of preventing fraud and "not a sign of weakness. That victims of fraud are the most reluctant to speak about the issue is telling of the taboo around fraud - and the long-term feelings of shame and embarrassment they unfairly face."

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