Phone scams and ‘vishing’ on the rise – how to protect vulnerable older people

Following our blog last week on the work the NCPQSW is undertaking with staff from the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) to respond to the risks posed by financial scams, the Financial Ombudsman Service has released a report to-day detailing the risks posed by phone scams and ‘vishing’. 

Vishing is the way that criminals use the phone to defraud or mislead someone, and a particular threat identified by the Financial Ombudsman Service is the “no hang-up” scam. In this type of scam fraudsters pose as the police or a bank and then persuade individuals that their account is at immediate risk. Individuals may then be tricked into giving away their account and PIN details over the phone.

This study found that older people are disproportionately represented in those reporting phone scams to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), and 80% of those affected were aged over 55.

slide2Many of those contacting the FOS had lost substantial sums of money, and the 185 complaints reviewed involved losses of up to £4.3 million.

It is important that those agencies and professionals working with vulnerable adults are alert to the risks posed by such scams, and that they are able to provide information and advice to those most at risk. Age UK provide useful advice about avoiding the risks posed by financial scams 

This includes:

  • Never give out personal or banking information when answering an incoming call
  • Be wary of calls from companies you haven’t dealt with before. This is cold calling and it should always ring alarm bells. Don’t be afraid to hang up or end the call with a brief ‘no’
  • Avoid calling numbers that begin ‘09’ as these are charged are premium rates, costing up to £2 per minute
  • If you are in doubt about the identity of a caller claiming to be from the police or your bank, ring the number on your statement using a different phone, or wait at least five minutes before making the call to make sure you are not still speaking to the fraudsters
  • Remember that banks will never ask for your PIN or passwords in full on the phone or via email, or send someone to your home to collect bank cards, etc

It is important that older people are made aware of the risks posed by phone scams, and that professional remain vigilant to the signs so that appropriate support and help can be offered.

Dr Lee-Ann Fenge

Associate Director Employer Engagement / Deputy Director of the National Centre for Post-qualifying Social Work

Lee-Ann smallPrior to joining Bournemouth University as a lecturer in 1995, Lee-Ann worked as a social worker in a number of adult social services settings in London and Dorset. Her particular interests are in practice with older people and community care. She has undertaken a number of participatory action research projects with older people, and has published recent academic papers on participatory action research methodology, involving older service users in research, diversity and ageing, sexuality and bereavement, and the impact of the recession on older people.

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