Police warn fraudsters ‘cruelly targeting’ most vulnerable with scams

Vulnerable people with mental health issues, physical disabilities and those who are older and living alone are being “cruelly targeted” by certain scams such as dating fraud and criminals turning up on their doorstep, police have warned.

Action Fraud and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) analysed a sample of 2,926 reports where victims were classed as vulnerable due to describing themselves as needing further help or due to being deemed vulnerable by the call centre.

Older people may be particularly likely to be victims of a scam known as advance fee fraud, the analysis suggests.

Bogus cold callers impersonate legitimate organisations such as the taxman, police or bank officials and persuade victims to transfer money.

Of the data sample of reports between October 2017 and March 2018, nearly a third of people reporting advance fee fraud were identified as being vulnerable people aged over 60.

Those living alone could be particularly vulnerable as they may find it difficult to speak to someone else to help them make an informed decision – and they may be more more easily bullied by fraudsters into paying.

People in their 60s may also be particularly likely to fall victim to dating fraud – when someone thinks they are in a relationship and is conned out of money.

People aged 60 to 69 are three times more likely to be a victim of dating fraud than those aged 70 to 79 – and women are almost twice as likely to be victims as men, the analysis found.

People who struggle with memory loss could be more at risk of falling victim to doorstep traders, who demand payment for non-existent services, Action Fraud said.

Fraudsters will often try to convince a vulnerable person they have had work done, or into accepting substandard maintenance.

Action Fraud director Pauline Smith said: “Fraudsters are cruelly targeting the most vulnerable people in our society to make them part with their cash and personal details.

“It is vital that you are aware of these frauds and how to spot them, and if you think you or a friend or family member has been a victim, report it to Action Fraud.”

Simon Blackburn, chairman of the safer and stronger communities board at the Local Government Association (LGA), said councils are promoting devices which block unwanted calls and setting up “no cold calling zones” to deter rogue doorstep traders.

He said: “Carers, families and neighbours need to look out for older and disabled people as they are more likely to be at risk of losing their life savings and suffer deteriorating health after falling victim to scam letters and phone calls and doorstep fraudsters.”

Here are Action Fraud’s tips for people to protect themselves:

1. To avoid dating fraud, do not share too many personal details when using dating websites. Revealing your full name, date of birth or full home address may lead to your identity being stolen.

Always use a reputable dating website or app and use the built-in messaging service. Never respond to requests to send money, or have money transferred into your account by someone you do not know or trust.

2. To avoid advance fee fraud, do not assume an email, phone call or letter is authentic. Just because someone knows your basic details does not mean they are genuine. Take time to stop and think if you are asked for your personal or financial details.

3. To avoid doorstep scams, do not immediately agree to any offer that involves an advance payment or having to sign a contract on the spot. Always speak with a friend or family member first.

If you think you have been a victim of fraud, report it to Action Fraud.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Action Fraud.