Posted: Thu 18th Apr 2024

Millions of over 50s fear answering their phones because of scams, Age UK warns

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales


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New research has found that almost a fifth of over 50s in the UK – equivalent to 4.9 million people – fear answering their phones because of scams, while 2.8 million over 50s fear opening their doors for the same reason.

The Crime Survey for England and Wales supports the recent findings from Age UK, suggesting that on average, four people aged 50+ are scammed every minute, a figure likely understated due to widespread underreporting. The fear of scams is not just a theoretical concern; it has tangible effects on daily life. About 1.2 million over-50s report losing sleep over scam fears, and a significant number avoid using the internet and smartphones or going outside.

A new report by Age UK highlights how fraudulent schemes have evolved dramatically to become the most prevalent crime against individuals, accounting for around 40% of all crimes.

Often perceived as more trusting and less technologically savvy, fraudsters will target older people with specific scams, resulting in financial losses and profound emotional and psychological impacts.

Age UK warns that the repercussions of scams – from diminished trust in digital platforms to a sense of violation and isolation – underscore the pressing need to safeguard older people now and in the future.

The financial and emotional impact on fraud victims led Age UK to launch its Scams Prevention and Support Programme, funded by Lloyds Banking Group.

Delivered over two years, from January 2022 to December 2023, the programme embarked on an ambitious journey to raise awareness, build knowledge and provide direct support to older individuals at risk of or affected by scams across England and Wales.

Through a blend of one-to-one advice sessions, awareness-raising talks, and the dissemination of preventative tools and educational materials, the programme sought to create a ripple effect of scam awareness and prevention strategies across communities.

Age UK’s new report details an important evaluation of Age UK’s Scams Prevention Programme and how it surpassed its outreach by providing tailored educational content, enhanced support services and digital literacy and safety skills to thousands of older people.

Overall, an impressive 25,850 older individuals took part in scams awareness talks and 4,979 older people had bespoke one-to-one support sessions in the areas participating in the programme.

Although anyone can be scammed, Age UK is warning that older people – particularly those who live alone or with cognitive impairment – are at greater risk becoming victims to certain scams.

Financial losses are common and are bad enough but being scammed can also seriously affect people’s quality of life and wellbeing. Many older people who are victimised experience a deep sense of shame, embarrassment, depression, social isolation and a decline in physical health, with some even losing their independence following a scam.

Caroline Abrahams CBE, Charity Director at Age UK said: “Many scammers are highly sophisticated criminals and it’s easy for anyone to be tricked by them. However, older people sometimes face a unique set of risk factors, including social isolation, limited digital literacy and cognitive impairments, that make them prime targets for fraudsters.

“Our new report sheds light on the extraordinary prevalence of scams and the urgent need for scam prevention education and support among older people – especially for those living in vulnerable circumstances. We’re really pleased that Age UK’s scams programme has been able to reach so many older people in their local communities and hope it will continue to empower older people against the ever-increasing threat of scams and fraud. However, a much greater national effort is called for to help older people stay safe from this growing and particularly insidious form of crime. Our scams programme shows the way, but the same kind of approach really ought to be available everywhere and that’s far from the position we see today.”

Age UK’s Scams Prevention and Support Programme embarked on an ambitious mission to empower older individuals against the ever-increasing threat of scams and fraud. Thanks to Lloyds Banking Group, this initiative has made significant strides in enhancing awareness, knowledge, and resilience among one of the most at-risk segments of our society to financial scams.

The Charity believes the programme’s findings and experiences offer critical recommendations for policymakers, stakeholders, and businesses. There is a clear imperative to strengthen legal frameworks to address the evolving landscape of scams and fraud better, enhance support and reporting mechanisms, and promote widespread education and awareness campaigns.

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