Protecting older people from financial scammers

imogen revell

By : Imogen Revell, LiveTime officer

Older people can often become vulnerable to scamming.  Sadly we’ve seen a steady increase in LiveTime customers who have lost money from doorstep callers or telephone scammers. In most cases we can intervene and recover cash handed over in the home, but sometimes scammers leave no trace and we are unable to contact them after the event.

I think the older generation tend to be more vulnerable because they often take people at face value and feel pressurised into making decisions on their doorsteps.  When people are isolated and don’t have family or friends to support them they can easily become victims.

One of our older tenants, Mrs S, was considering getting a stairlift, when she was called by a company offering aids and adaptations.  The sales rep told her that she wouldn’t need her landlord’s permission for the adaptation to her home and that she would not be able to get it for free from her social landlord. So, she handed over £4,000.  When we visited Mrs S she told us about her new purchase and was surprised to learn that she may be able to get it for free and that our permission was essential.  We then rang the company on her behalf and managed to get them to return the money to her.  Without our intervention she would have lost £4,000 and may have been landed with a stairlift not even suitable for her needs.

Another of our 90-year-old Livetime customers wasn’t so lucky, after we learned she’d handed over £2,000 to a door-to-door gardening service.  The rogue traders offered to cut down trees, which they suggested were making her more isolated by blocking her view to the outside world.  Unfortunately we couldn’t trace the company, as they hadn’t left contact details.  We did, however, arrange to have a Helpline unit and phone line installed, so that if anyone else called she could alert them to potential scammers and help protect others who were vulnerable.

As people live longer and more independent lives in their own homes, it’s a sad fact that more and more are becoming victims of financial scammers.  So much so, that we now incorporate the following advice into our visits to the over 55s.

  • Never give out bank account details to anyone who phones you or asks for them over the doorstep.
  • Check people are who they say they are – check ID, uniform and ring the company they say they work for – if they do represent that company, then waiting a few more minutes won’t be a problem.
  • Beware of unsolicited calls or emails – if you are not sure, call the company they are allegedly from.
  • If you have Helpline or Careline, use your buzzer to get in touch with the call centre and tell them you are worried.
  • If you are worried about persistent callers you could ring our customer service centre on 0345 111 0000 and get further details of Helpline/Careline.