Older people in Cheshire lost over £75,000 last year, according to new cybercrime data acquired by the charity Age UK.
A Freedom of Information request to Action Fraud, the national fraud reporting centre, found that Cheshire Constabulary received 91 reports of cybercrime, in England and Wales between April 2018 and March 2019, from people aged 55 and over.
Older people who became victims of these crimes in Cheshire reported a total loss of £75,809 during that period. They made up one quarter (25%) of the overall number of cybercrime victims in the area. However, as it is estimated that only 3% of cybercrime is reported to authorities, the actual figures are likely to be much higher.
Cybercrime, or computer orientated crime, can take many forms but some of the most common examples are phishing, investment fraud, identity theft, fraudulent adverts, and blackmail. This could be an online purchase that never materialises, a cryptocurrency investment or an online auction site scam.
Unfortunately, the problem has only got worse during lockdown. Age UK statistics acquired from Action Fraud also revealed older people in England and Wales were scammed out of over £2.4m during lockdown because of COVID-19 related fraud.
Age UK is warning older people across the country to be extra vigilant and providing advice to support them.
Locally, since April 2020, Age UK Cheshire East has made strides in raising older people’s awareness of all types of scam, including cybercrime, through its Older Persons Scams Awareness & Aftercare Project. Started in lockdown, and in partnership with Cheshire East Council Trading Standards, the project aims to empower older people to spot, avoid and report scams, as well as providing much needed aftercare to those who have been scammed and need support to rebuild their trust and confidence.
The project, kindly sponsored by The National Lottery Community Fund and The Garfield Weston Foundation, offers a monthly scams awareness update bulletin, packed with top tips of how to avoid scam and information about current scams in the area.
Older people’s groups can book a scams awareness session to learn about different kinds of scams and how to avoid them. These can be delivered face-to-face or online.
Uniquely, the project also offers support to those who have been scammed. This bespoke service can range from a reassuring phone call to one-to-one sessions to rebuild the victim’s confidence and reengage in their local community.
Recently, whilst out and about with partners, Cheshire East Council Training Standards, to raise awareness of the project with banks in the area, Sally Wilson, the project’s manager said, “The project has already been well received, with residents showing increased confidence in the fight against scams from the knowledge they’ve gained. We would encourage older people and their families in the local area to email us to receive our bulletin direct to their inbox, or to get in touch to arrange an awareness session or further support”.
Older residents in the Age UK Cheshire East area of benefit (around northern part of the Cheshire East borough) can access the Older Persons Scams Awareness and Aftercare services by contacting Sally Wilson on 01625 612958/07932 999902 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Older people and their families across the UK can find advice and tips on staying safe online by calling Age UK’s free national Advice Line on 0800 169 65 65 (365 days a year from 8am–7pm) or on Age UK’s website at www.ageuk.org.uk/scams. Here they can also find links to copies of Age UK’s free, downloadable guides Avoiding scams and Staying safe.
Age UK’s top tips for avoiding online scams:
- Stay safe online
If you use a computer, don’t open emails or attachments from people you don’t know. Make sure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus software and ignore any phone calls that say your computer has a problem or a virus, as this is a scam.
- Make sure the company you are buying from online is reputable
Before you commit to buying, check the seller. Does the company have a contact number that works and a postal address, and is it a member of a trade association? Financial companies must be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – you can check at www.fca.org.uk/register or call 0800 111 6768.
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
Ignore emails offering a brilliant investment. Ignore these offers and never reply - it shows your details are active which will encourage scammers to contact you again.
- Report it