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.