Scams – time to tackle an urgent problem


Over half (53%) of people aged 65+ believe they’ve been targeted by a scam, as revealed by an Age UK poll. This means a staggering 5.7 million people could be at risk.

And the scale of problem is probably even worse due to under-reporting – over 60% of people who received a scam didn’t report it to anyone.

Not everyone responded to attempted scams but of those who did 70% lost money. A third of older people who did respond may have lost £1,000 or more.

These alarming figures – from our new evidence review – come as new pension freedoms take effect. Many people over 55 now have access to pension savings worth tens of thousands of pounds and fraudsters will target them.

Anyone can be a victim – but older people are at risk

People of all ages become victims. This includes people who feel confident with money.

But we know that older people are often targeted. For example, doorstep scammers focus on areas with lots of retired residents, calling in on people during the day to sell extortionately priced goods (e.g. windows) or offering services that never happen (e.g. gardening).

Also, older people in particular circumstances can be at risk. Those who are lonely – half of people 75+ live alone – are preyed on by doorstep or telephone fraudsters who provide a friendly and welcome voice. We have also seen cases where people with dementia have been targeted.

Impacts – health as well as money

The financial losses can be huge. We know of cases where people lost tens of thousands of pounds. And some evidence suggests that older people, on average, lose more to scams.

But losing smaller amounts can be devastating too, affecting people’s health. Some victims experience debilitating psychological effects such as stress, depression or shame.

It also affects people’s physical health. Given people’s reluctance to admit or report a scam and get help, victims’ health can spiral downwards so that they eventually need intensive health or social care and lose their independence.

Time to act – what can be done?

With an ageing population, pension freedoms, rising levels of dementia and more people online, it is vital the government and others pull together to tackle scams now.

Age UK is calling on the next government to set up a National Scams Task Force to give the issue fresh priority and co-ordinate the good work happening by government, police, banks and others.

See our Avoiding Scams guide for tips on what to watch out for and where to go for advice. You can phone Age UK on 0800 169 6565 for a copy or contact Action Fraud to report a scam on 0300 123 3040.

Read the full report Only the tip of the iceberg: fraud against older people

Find out consumer advice about how to avoid scams on the Age UK website


Author: Age UK

Age UK is dedicated to helping everyone make the most of later life. In the UK we help more than 7 million older people each year by providing advice, combating loneliness and enabling independence. Locally, we work as part of a network of independent charities which includes Age UK, Age Cymru, Age NI and Age Scotland and over 150 local Age UK partners in England and Wales.

2 thoughts on “Scams – time to tackle an urgent problem”

  1. I received a leaflet from the Department of Health informing me that my savings and property will be taken to pay for any care I need. In my opinion
    care charges are grossly inflated. On investigation, I discover that though
    local authorities are responsible for the care-costs of people with no assets,
    they only pay a proportion of this and then use money from the paying
    pensioners by inflating the cost of care. This is a scam leading to depletion
    of savings far more rapidly than it should be. I take it that they get away with
    this because they are swindling pensioners with no-one to speak up for them. I object to this blatant dishonesty. Could Age UK take up this matter?
    V M Collins

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