World Elder Abuse Awareness Day: Protecting older people from financial abuse

15/06/2020

Monday (15 June) marks World Elder Abuse Awareness Day - a day that aims to raise awareness of the maltreatment of older people.

Abuse against the elderly can be physical, financial, sexual or psychological. It can occur anywhere and can have serious long-term physical and psychological consequences for victims. 

Sussex Police is taking this opportunity to raise awareness of financial abuse against the elderly. 

Operation Signature is our campaign to identify, protect and support vulnerable victims of fraud. Through this, we have identified reports from 1,427 victims over 75 in the past year (June 2019 to May 2020) - with the oldest victim being 102 years of age.

The total loss of these frauds was £5,356,270, with the average being £10,975. Out of the 1,427 victims, 61 per cent were female and 39 per cent were male. The vast majority - 68 per cent (965) - live alone. 

The most commonly reported types of frauds affecting the elderly in the last year have been:

1. Courier or impersonator fraud - which is when criminals pretend to be from an organisation such as a bank to take personal details or money from victims. Sussex Police recorded 421 incidents involving over 75s in the past year and more details about this sort of crime can be found here.

2. Door step crime or rogue traders frauds (318 in the past year).

3. Telephone scams (185 in the past year).

4. Software service frauds (86 in the past year).

5.Financial abuse known person frauds (76 in the past year). 

Most victims were contacted by telephone (64 per cent) and 25 percent in person.

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In March an 82-year-old woman from Battle attempted to withdraw £7,500 funds to transfer to a fraudster claiming it was for his wife’s funeral. The bank contacted police under the Banking Protocol scheme which trains bank branch staff to watch out for signs that someone may be about to fall victim to a scam. 

Police attended and the victim said she had received a call from someone pretending to be a police officer and was told there was an ongoing investigation into her bank as money had disappeared from her account. She was instructed to transfer all money out of the account and into a safe account. The victim believed this to be true and attended the bank to do so whilst still on the phone to the caller. Thankfully in this instance the victim lost no money and was given prevention advice. 

PC Bernadette Lawrie, Financial Abuse Safeguarding Officer for Sussex and Surrey Police said: "Sadly cases like this are all too common.

"Financial abuse against the elderly has a devastating impact and we are committed to protecting the vulnerable from such maltreatment. These statistics shine a light on the different ways in which elderly victims are being exploited by unscrupulous people who want to take their money. 

"These despicable fraudsters shamelessly target the vulnerable. Victims can be left feeling frightened or sometimes embarrassed of being taken advantage of. 

"There are steps that can be taken to protect yourself. Always double check people are who they say they are, never feel pressured to make decisions on the spot and always trust your instincts. 

"We would urge anyone with elderly friends or relatives to ensure they're aware of what to watch out for. As part of Operation Signature we have a number of educational resources such as the Little Book of Big Scams and our monthly newsletter detailing recent incidents in the local area."

Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said: "In these particularly challenging times, people’s minds are understandably pre-occupied and many of our older residents are left feeling lonely and detached from the world around them. This can often lead to them letting their guard down and becoming susceptible to criminals who will then take advantage.

"This is why the operational response to these crimes by Sussex Police is so important. I’m proud of the initiative they have taken to protect and support all victims of fraud by developing Operation Signature and introducing a Banking Protocol.

"We’re seeing reporting rise as more and more people understand that scams are fraud and fraud is a crime. On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, it’s more important than ever to repeat the message that fraud of our elderly is not acceptable and will not be tolerated."

Key things to remember:

  • Never send or give money to anyone you don't know or trust.
  • Check people are who they say they are.
  • Don't share your personal information.
  • Make decisions in your own time.
  • If in doubt phone a relative or a friend.
  • Trust no-one who cold calls you about your bank account or a problem with your computer.

Under no circumstances would the bank or police:

  • request a card PIN or security details over the telephone, or
  • arrange collection of bank cards from a home address

Visit the Action Fraud website for advice and to report fraud. For vulnerable victims please report to Sussex Police online or by calling 101. In an emergency always dial 999. 

The Little Book of Big Scams is a very useful booklet that covers different types of fraud and explains how you can help protect yourself from them.

Our latest fraud newsletter has news of scams in your area and helpful tips to protect yourself from fraud.

The Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner and Action on Elder Abuse can also help.

trueCall is a product we support, as it blocks nuisance calls.

Get Safe Online holds lots of useful advice and information about protecting yourself online.

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