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‘Talk to the vulnerable’

The Financial Ombudsman Service is urging people to talk to vulnerable relatives, friends and neighbours, about the risk of being scammed. As it publishes new research suggesting people over the age of 55 could be four times more likely to be caught out by “vishing” or a “no-hang up” scam. In a report, the ombudsman reviewed 200 cases involving a no hang-up scam – where fraudsters pose as the police or banks to deceive consumers.

The report finds:

80 per cent of the consumers conned out of their cash were over the age of 55. One in five was over 75.

The cases looked at within the report involved losses of over £4 million.

38 per cent of people had lost between £5,000 and £14,999, 20 per cent between £20,000 and £49,999, and some more than £100,000.

People living in London and the South East were most likely to have brought a complaint about a no hang-up scam to the ombudsman.

37 per cent of complaints were upheld.

Vishing, like many scams, can leave people feeling powerless, as often there’s little people can do to get their money back, the FOS says. However, in four in ten cases, the ombudsman did find the bank’s response to the fraud had fallen short so the customers were compensated. In the remainder of the cases, the bank had done all that it could – but the money had been stolen and the ombudsman could not find the bank at fault.

Caroline Wayman, chief ombudsman, said: “One of the most consistently challenging areas of our work is dealing with people who have been affected by financial fraud. These are extremely cruel and convincing deceptions and consumers are tricked into believing they are protecting their money, when in fact it is being stolen. Scammers are relying on people’s vulnerability and vishing is particularly insidious in exploiting this. This is why we really want to share what we are seeing in the complaints we handle and encourage people to get talking about scams with their friends and relatives so they become more alert to the risks – stopping the fraudsters in their tracks.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK added: “These figures aren’t surprising to us as scams are a huge problem that show absolutely no sign of easing off and if anything are going to get worse over time as scams become more elaborate. That anyone would target an older person to defraud them in the first place is abhorrent but we know that older people are deliberately targeted and can be especially at risk if they are living with dementia and/or cognitive decline. Some older people are more vulnerable to fraud because they live alone or in isolation, but fraud is something that can happen to any of us. In fact, people who are financially proficient and avid users of the internet are just as likely to be at risk.

“The degree of sophistication used over the phone or online to defraud is frightening. These new figures should act as a wake-up call to get people talking about the threat of fraud and its grave consequences on people’s health as well as their finances. Government and financial institutions need to recognise the relentless threat to older people that fraud represents and take much more determined action against it.”

Hints and tips:

Never give out personal or banking information when answering an incoming call, and don’t always rely on the Caller ID for identification.

If you’re in any doubt about the identity of a caller claiming to be from your bank or the police, hang up and call the phone number on your account statements, back of your debit or credit card, in the phone book, or on the company’s website. Use a different phone or wait at least five minutes before making the call to make sure you’re not speaking to the same fraudsters.

An easy way to protect your financial details is by shredding bank statements, receipts and other documents containing any financial information, such as account numbers.

Remember, if your bank suspects your account has been compromised by fraudsters they will usually ‘freeze the account’ which will prevent any transactions happening – there is no need for you to do anything.

Comment

Raj Samani, EMEA CTO at Intel Security, said: “This news demonstrates that scammers are becoming more intelligent than ever in who they are targeting and how they are doing it. Consumers need to be aware that if their bank is calling them legitimately, they have the ability to call them back to double check. In moments of panic, we may share crucial personal information but it is key that consumers take the time to step back and think of who they are talking to. Now that fraudsters are targeting the elderly, younger relatives need to ensure that their most vulnerable family members know how to react when their details are being compromised. “


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