Fulfilled living in later life
How to help older people avoid being scammed

Wednesday 7th June 2023

How to help older people avoid being scammed

Sadly, older adults can be the targets of fraud. Here are six top tips to help you support older relatives, friends or members of your church to stay protected and beat the scammers

Older adults may be especially vulnerable to fraud, with fraudsters taking advantage of trust and gaps in digital knowledge. Perpetrators may pose as couriers, bank officials, or the police, exploiting their victims' goodwill to manipulate them into revealing sensitive information or parting with their money.

Chatting through the points below will help the older people you know minimise their risk of falling victim. Encourage the person to...

1) Question caller identity

When receiving unexpected phone calls, particularly from individuals claiming to be from banks, courier services, or government agencies, exercise caution. Ask the caller to verify their identity by asking for specific details such as their name, organisation, and contact information. Legitimate callers will provide clear and accurate information, while scammers may become evasive or aggressive when questioned. It’s always okay to say you’re going hang up and independently contact the organisation in question to verify the caller's authenticity. Reassure the older person that doing this isn’t impolite, just sensible. A legitimate caller will respond with understanding.

2) Seek trusted advice

It is crucial for older adults to have trusted contacts they can turn to when faced with unfamiliar situations or suspicious calls. Encourage them to consult a family member, friend, or caregiver before taking any action. Trusted individuals can help verify the legitimacy of a call or offer and provide valuable guidance to prevent falling victim to fraud.

3) Protect personal information

Understanding the importance of safeguarding personal and financial information is vital. Emphasise that no legitimate organization will request sensitive information over the phone, such as social security numbers, banking details, PINs or passwords. Encourage older adults to remain vigilant and never disclose such information, regardless of the urgency or authenticity claimed by the caller.

4) Be vigilant with banking

Talk through secure banking practices. Advise them to avoid making payments or transferring money based solely on a phone call, even if the caller insists it is urgent. If anyone asks them to move their money from their bank account to a "safe" account they should immediately be suspicious. If they bank online, remind them to use secure online banking platforms, set strong passwords, and regularly review their bank statements for any unusual or unauthorised transactions. If they suspect fraudulent activity, advise them to contact their bank immediately.

5) Be alert to courier fraud

Courier fraud, where fraudsters trick victims into handing over cash, bank cards, or other valuable items to a courier or someone posing as a courier, is on the rise with retirement villages and even care homes being targeted. Help older people to recognise the signs. A fraudster will often try to convince the victim that their bank account or personal information is at risk, citing reasons like unauthorised transactions, security breaches, or pending legal actions. They create a sense of urgency and fear, urging the victim to take immediate action to protect their assets. The fraudster instructs the victim to transfer money to withdraw cash for collection by a courier. They often claim that this is necessary to safeguard the funds or assist with an investigation. The fraudster arranges for a courier to visit the victim's location, usually on the same day or shortly afterward.

6) Report suspected fraud

Encourage older adults to report any suspected fraudulent activity promptly. They should be aware of the appropriate channels to report incidents, such as the police or their bank's fraud department. Reporting scams can help protect others from falling victim and contribute to the identification and prosecution of scammers.

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