Recently we have seen incidents where elderly and vulnerable people have been the victim of unscrupulous criminals who target them specifically.
They prey on the elderly as they are unfortunately more likely to fall for internet or online fraud and are more likely to say “yes” if someone knocks on the door or cold calls them on the phone. Help us stop them!
Recognising the signs of a fraud, scam, distraction burglar or rogue trader is half the battle. Do you know what to look for and could you help educate a neighbour, friend or relative?
Over recent months in Somerset alone we have seen cold-callers selling over-priced cleaning products, rogue traders forcing elderly people to take them to the bank to withdraw large sums for half-completed jobs, distraction burglars coning their way into homes pretending to be from utility companies or collecting magazine subscriptions, online email scams and even scammers calling people to ask for cash pretending to be police officers!
These criminals are really clever and creative and it’s not just the elderly, vulnerable and the less “tech-savvy” that are taken in. We are all at risk of online fraud. There are many ways they try to trick their victims, but there are signs to help you identify a fraud, scam or con and protect yourself – for example:
John*, 75, from Chipping Sodbury was the victim of a rogue trader
He was defrauded out of thousands of pounds after the rogue trader persuaded him that his home needed repairs back in 2016.
The man was charged with five counts of fraud by false representation and after failing to appear in
court was finally brought to justice through a European arrest warrant. He was jailed for 27 months.
We understand that this sounds rather alarming but the good news is that there are some very simple but effective things you can do to protect yourself from this type of crime. Firstly - if you aren’t sure, don’t open the door. Just say no and turn them away.
Online, if you get an unsolicited email asking for bank details just delete it…don’t reply. The same with phone calls, if someone calls asking for money, bank details or access to your computer just hang up. It might seem rude but… by just by saying “no”, you can avoid becoming a victim of crime.
Chief Superintendent Ian Wylie, District Commander for Somerset, said: “These criminals purposefully target the elderly and vulnerable. The impact of their crimes isn’t just financial loss, for many it can have a detrimental effect emotionally, mentally and in some cases physically.
“Most elderly we victims we speak to say they feel embarrassed and ashamed, and they shouldn’t. These criminals are sophisticated and creative with their lies. But there are ways we can work together to stop it from happening in the first place. Prevention is better than cure.”
Angela* 71, from Nailsea experienced credit card fraud as the result of an online email scam.
She is not “elderly” and certainly not what people would typically classify as “vulnerable”.
She said: “I received an email from “HMRC” saying I needed to send them some details in order for them to process my rebate. The email looked absolutely legitimate so I filled in all the information they asked for.
“Several months later I got a call from M&S Financial Services to say that they had frozen my credit card as they had detected a fraud. Someone had made two transactions on the card in Stratford, London and then had tried to spend £2,000 in John Lewis, which is when they had blocked the card.
“It transpired that the fraudsters had called M&S and by using all the security information I had previously supplied in the supposed HMRC email, they were able to obtain a new card and get it sent to them.
“I felt so angry with myself for being stupid. I’m not a doddery old lady, I also used to work in the financial industry, but they were so convincing. This experience did shake me up. I really don’t want it to happen to anyone else.”
*We have changed people's names to protect their identities.
Please talk to any elderly or vulnerable people you know. Help them to understand some of the ways of recognising scams and frauds, and the simple steps they can take to minimise the risk of becoming a victim.
Sign up to either a No Cold Calling Zone or Nominated Neighbour Scheme in your area, or let your neighbours know that they can direct cold callers to you to answer any questions. That alone is often enough of a deterrent. You can also become a member of Neighbourhood Watch.
Please let us know if you, neighbours or friends receive any cold callers, it is always useful to know when they are in our area and we can take positive steps once we know they are there. The same applies for any suspected online or telephone scams. Please let us know.
There is plenty of advice and support available. If you suspect someone has been the victim of crime, you can report it online via our website www.avonandsomerset.police.uk or call the 101 number. If someone is at risk or needs an immediate police response, please always dial 999.