The family of an 83 year old man have appealed for help, after he lost his life savings in a phone scam. He was conned into transferring £60,000 from his highstreet bank to accounts belonging to the fraudsters. His family spoke with the BBC this week, to help highlight how easy it is to fall victim to these types of scams and, say now the retired teacher is stuggling to pay his bills and has been left devestaed by the crime.
The scammers telephoned the elderly victim and appeared to know everything about his 3 bank accounts. The caller even had a Scottish accent and, as his bank is headquarterd in Scotland, he was convinced he was talking to a genuine person from his bank. They then went on to tell him that there was an unidentified individual working within the bank, who was attempting to steal money from customers accounts. The conman told him that his life-savings would only be safe if he paid £60,000 into a different account. The elderly man was so panicked by this, that he did exactly as the scammers told him and visited a branch of Lloyds Bank and transferred his entire life savings to the scammers account.
Chief executive of Dudley council, where the victim lives, told the BBC that the problem is so widespread it is incredibly difficult to tackle. The council have also identified hundreds of vulnerable people who are being targeted by fraudsters on a regular basis. They say fraudsters pass around a ‘Sucker List’, which identifies vulnerable people and also details the victims’ names and contact details. The council say they are contacting these people and helping to protect them from these types of financial crime. The council have also estimated that annually around £10 million is being scammed from vulnerable people in this borough alone.
The most common types of scams being used to target vulnerable people:
It is estimated that around £10 billion is lost each year in the UK to fraud and elderly people, especially those with dementia are at particular risk. Because older people are more likely to live on their own, and are often lonely, they become targets for fraudsters. And for some people, their only form of social contact is with commercial organisations, legitimate or fraudulent. They might receive telemarketing calls, emails or letters, or open the door to a scammer purporting to be a bona fide salesman or tradesman. Sometimes strong relationships can develop between scammers and their elderly victims, if a high level of contact is maintained.
Romantic scams: A romance scam is a confidence trick involving feigning romantic intentions towards a victim, gaining their affection then using that goodwill to commit fraud. Fraudsters may try to contact you by making fake profiles, getting in touch and building what feels like a loving relationship. Once a fraudster using a fake dating profile is confident that they’ve won your trust, they will tell you about a problem they’re experiencing and ask you to help out by sending money. They may have arranged to visit you, but need money to pay for the flight or visa. They may tell you everything has been booked but their ticket has been stolen, and you need to send money quickly to get them on the next flight. Alternatively they may prey on your sympathies, telling you a family member or someone else they are responsible for is ill and they need money for medical treatment. Once you send them money, the fraudsters will keep coming back and invent new reasons to send them more.
Prize scams: Unexpected prize and lottery scams work by asking you to pay some sort of fee in order to claim your prize or winnings from a competition or lottery you never entered. To claim your prize, you will be asked to pay a fee. Scammers will often say these fees are for insurance costs, government taxes, bank fees or courier charges. The scammers make money by continually collecting these fees from you and stalling the payment of your winnings.
Direct financial scam: There are many direct financial scams and fraudsters are always coming up with new ways to scam money from vulnerable people. Some scams are so slick, even the most vigilant can be duped. It is important to remember that if something sounds too good to be true it probably is.
Protect yourself from scams:
Never respond to any emails, text messages, letter or social media that look suspicious, or that have bad spelling or grammar.
A genuine bank will never contact you out of the blue asking for your PIN, full password or to move money to another account. If you receive a message like this, ignore it.
If someone you have never met before asks you for money, do not give them any and report it.
Always question uninvited contact. This is relevant whether it is on the doorstep, over the phone, by post or online. Always contact the company directly yourself.
Never automatically click on a link in an unexpected text or email. Make sure you use a strong password, and change them regularly.
Trust your instincts, if you feel at all wary or suspicious, you’re probably right.