Fraud and the elderly

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2019 National Retired Members Conference
1 January 2019

Conference notes with concern the ‘BBC 5 Live Investigates’ report on fraud broadcast in September 2018 stating that fraudsters scammed nearly 49,000 older people across the UK in the past year, equivalent to almost six reports every hour. Furthermore the total number of reports has nearly doubled in the past 3 years and one expert believes the true number of elderly victims was likely to be in the millions.

Conference notes that some of our vulnerable retired members are still being taken in by these fraudsters.

The 5 Live Investigates team asked Action Fraud, the UK police’s cyber-crime reporting centre, for a breakdown of the five most common types of fraud affecting older people reported to them over the past 3 years. It revealed:

1) In 2016-17 there were 40,487 frauds affecting people aged over 60 reported and 49,981 last year – equivalent to nearly six crimes every hour;

2) This was up from 25,659 in 2015-16;

3) Last year 1,140 victims were aged over 90 and 13 were aged over 100.

Conference also notes the deleterious impact these scams have on the health of its many older victims – the health of the older demographic successfully scammed declined so much that a significant number ended up in residential care within 6 months of the scams being exposed.

Conference recognises that whilst such frauds are perpetrated against the whole population, this report highlights the particular vulnerability of older and elderly people who are clearly targeted by the criminal gangs engaged in these types of fraud. The figures suggest that they see this demographic as “easy pickings” and tailor their approach to convincing these victims to hand over their money through a variety of imaginative and sophisticated scams.

Several of our retired members have received calls offering to stop scam and unwanted calls free of charge. When they accept their services they are then asked for their bank details, if the services are supposed to be free why ask for bank details? When they then go to their bank to withdraw a sum of money they find that money has been withdrawn from their accounts.

Conference believes that every effort must be made to get the message out to our vulnerable contemporaries to never, never give bank details to anyone on the telephone or on e-mail as their bank would never ask for their details by this method. If they give you a telephone number which is supposed be your bank’s for you to verify, then make sure you do it from another phone as they block your phone and instead of getting your bank to verify you actually get back to them! If you are informed by e-mail that you have won a sum of money on a lottery in another country, if you have not entered any of these lotteries then you cannot win anything.

Attempts to steal their money through false claims about compromised bank accounts; non-existent lottery and prize draw winnings and the many other means used by the fraudsters are no more and no less than criminal enterprises.

We must counter the many means used by fraudsters with publicity about such activities and try to prevent this becoming a criminal epidemic affecting millions of potential victims. In particular efforts must be made to publicise the scale of the problem and the fact that many victims feel embarrassed and ashamed that they have fallen for these scams and so fail to report it to the police resulting in it remaining hidden.

Conference therefore instructs the National Retired Members’ Committee to:

1) Liaise with the National Executive Council (NEC) about publicising this report as widely as possible;

2) Liaise with the NEC to ensure warnings about these scams are publicised through UNISON magazines, newsletters and other relevant publications to reach as wide a readership as possible;

3) Liaise with the National Pensioners Convention and the Scottish Pensioners Forum about ways of publicising these frauds and informing pensioners and other older/elderly people of the scale of these scams;

4) Urge members to report these scams to Trading Standards and the Police;

5) Report back to National Retired Members’ Conference 2020.

Leicester County

East Midlands