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VS figures show fraudsters targeting older people

14 October 2015

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One in three people who suffer fraud are aged 65 or over, analysis from Victim Support reveals.

There were more than seven million incidents of fraud and cyber crime in England and Wales over the past year, according to crime figures released today by the Office for National Statistics. Incidents of fraud such as phone, email and internet scams were included in the Crime Survey of England and Wales for the first time.

New figures show Victim Support received 39,272 referrals for fraud from the police in the 12 months up to September 2015, illustrating the vast under-reporting of fraud by the public.

Of those referrals, 35% of victims were aged 65 or over – an age group which makes up only 18% of the general population. In addition, 19% of victims were aged 75 or over, despite this age group making up just 8% of the population.

Lucy Hastings, Director for Victim Support, said: “Fraud damages lives not just bank accounts and the fact that fraudsters are targeting vulnerable older people is both disturbing and despicable.

”Today's crime figures show the staggering scale of fraud and yet we know that the vast majority of cases still go unreported. So, prevention is absolutely vital, as is ensuring that victims of fraud are properly supported. 

”We need to take away the stigma, so that victims of fraud have the confidence to report it, knowing that they are not alone and will be taken seriously. We may not be able to recover or compensate them for their financial loss, but we can work with them to get their lives back on track.”

One such older victim was Pat Bottomley, 76, from Hull, who was conned out of her £8,500 life savings in May 2015, by fraudsters posing as police.

Pat received a phone call saying a teenager, with the same name as her son, had been arrested in possession of her bank card. Her first reaction was to laugh and ask if it was joke, but: “The police officer assured me he was genuine and needed my assistance. He even gave me the name and phone number of a real policeman, which I looked up – so I thought he was being honest.”

Moments later his colleague in the fraud department also called Pat. He persuaded Pat to transfer her savings into an account, saying that, with her help, they could catch international fraudsters withdrawing stolen money.

It was only when her son came home later that day and told her of recent scams that Pat realised she had fallen victim.

“I was totally drawn in and I felt absolutely gutted." 

The scam artists targeted Pat at a particularly difficult time with the anniversary of her husband’s death approaching in two days. Together, the couple had received MBEs for their work fostering more than 600 children over 42 years.

“The experience made me totally lose my confidence. I felt very stupid. It wasn’t about the money – it was about how I was made to feel. I didn't want to answer the phone to anyone or go out anymore.”

With the help of her son, Pat reported the incident to the bank and the police, who referred her to Victim Support. Two trained volunteers listened to how she was feeling and how the crime affected her.

“I could ring them at any time and they listened to me without thinking I was stupid. I would have struggled in the beginning without them.”

Our five top tips to protect yourself from fraud:

  1. Always remember: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

  2. Keep your personal information safe. Never give anyone your bank pin or National Insurance number and shred or tear up any letters that include your personal details – don't just throw them in the bin.

  3. Keep safe online. Change your passwords regularly and make them as complex as you can remember. Install the latest anti-virus protection on all your devices.

  4. If you fall victim to fraud – don’t blame yourself. For support and information, contact Victim Support by calling 08 08 16 89 111 or visiting victimsupport.org.uk

  5. Reporting fraud will help police catch these criminals. Visit actionfraud.police.uk or call 0300 123 2040 to log your case. 

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