Elderly are new ‘hidden victims’ of fraudsters

Readers of our SW&A blogs will know that we regularly highlight cases of financial fraud and we were disturbed to read that elderly victims – some aged over 100 – have been targeted by fraudsters before banks stepped in to prevent big losses.

Bank workers are trained to spot cases, quiz customers and contact police during requests in branches for withdrawals that raise suspicions of a scam. 

However, coronavirus lockdown has raised fears that some elderly people unable to visit the bank due to shielding and some branches being closed have become hidden victims as internet banking is a new experience for them. 

Banking trade body UK Finance said £19m was saved in the first half of the year and 100 arrests were made. Known officially as the Banking Protocol, the awareness scheme has prevented victims from losing £116m of fraud and led to 744 arrests since it was introduced three years ago by the industry, trading standards and police forces.

Those targeted by fraudsters are typically aged over 65. Some have been persuaded that they should take out a large sum of cash and hand it to fraudsters posing as couriers. 

In one case, a potential victim wanted to send money to “a friend” on an oil rig who did not have access to the internet, and then would pay the money back later. She was initially unconvinced that the story was untrue but police were called and the transaction was halted.

The banking industry is now liaising with police in a bid to expand the scheme to telephone and online banking. Officers could visit the homes of vulnerable victims who attempted to make a payment via online or telephone banking that has been highlighted as potentially part of a scam.

SW&A can only echo police advice in relation to telephone fraud:

  • Be sceptical of callers, even those who claim to be officials 
  • Don’t be afraid to put the phone down with a brief ‘no, thank you’ 
  • Never give personal information, such as your date of birth or bank details, to unexpected callers 
  • Remember that the police or your bank would never unexpectedly call you and ask you to withdraw cash or move your money to another account, for any reason 
  • If callers suggest you call your local police or bank to check who they are, use another phone or ensure the line has been fully disconnected by phoning a friend or relative first, or by waiting at least three minutes. Otherwise you may think you’ve phoned that number, but you’re simply talking to the fraudsters again. This is a common scammer tactic 
  • If a caller asks you to type your bank PIN into your telephone handset do not do this as they can use technology to identify the numbers.