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How to spot if your elderly relative has fallen victim to a scam

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
Elderly people are more vulnerable to fraudsters and may be too embarrassed to say they’ve been scammed. Here’s how to spot the signs.

Scams are on the rise with recent estimates indicating there were 5.8 million incidents of fraud in England and Wales for the year ending 2016.

Elderly people are more likely to be targeted as they’re less tech-savvy and may be on their own.

It’s not just the financial consequences they and their families have to deal with; manipulation by fraudsters can affect a victim’s mental and physical health.

Mutual Insurer, Royal London is now urging families to keep a look out over the festive season for signs that a loved one may have fallen victim to a scam.

It suggests piles of post hidden away, concern over missing postal deliveries and talk of high returning investment opportunities can all be signs that they’ve been targeted.

It’s not always easy to broach the subject as the victim may not believe they’ve been scammed or they may be too embarrassed to admit what’s happened or tell anyone about the issue.

As such, Royal London has launched a scam guide to help families understand the signs and how to help and protect loved ones.

Helen Morrissey, personal finance specialist at Royal London, said: “Families have become increasingly geographically dispersed and may not see each other as often as they would like and so tell-tale signs might be missed.

“Making visits over the festive season can prove to be an important opportunity to make sure all is well with a loved one. Scams can have a terrible effect on someone’s financial and mental wellbeing so early detection is vital if they are to receive the support they need to recover from the incident and give the authorities the information they need to track the fraudster down.”

‘Organised crime’

In one case seen by Royal London, the son of an elderly lady revealed she had fallen victim to a series of postal scams and was receiving many letters every week. While he was able to speak to Royal Mail to get her post redirected and put safeguards in place with her bank, he said there’s not enough support in place to help vulnerable people who are at risk of being scammed.

He said: “I just don’t think it is fair how we treat vulnerable people in this position. These mailings amount to organised crime and the issue needs to be brought into the mainstream and escalated. It may amount to small individual amounts of money per week but in the grand scheme of things it still means a lot to those people and adds up quickly to many thousands of pounds. It’s sickening to see the most vulnerable people in our society being preyed upon in this way.”

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