Survey finds being older and living alone makes people more vulnerable to fraud

23/03/2017

More than nine out of 10 people believe that being older and living alone makes people more vulnerable to fraud, according to a survey of 3,200 Sussex residents.

86% of respondents felt that older people are targeted by fraudsters more frequently than other age groups while more than eight out of 10 agree that older people who live alone are targeted by fraudsters more frequently than those who live with a companion.

The Sussex Elders’ Commission and Neighbourhood Watch survey also found that more than half of residents knew someone who has been a victim of fraud and two-thirds of those said money had been lost.

Shockingly 127 people said that more than £10,000 was taken, meaning at least £1.27m stolen from respondents’ friends or family.

“Just because somebody is smooth-talking your grandmother out of her life savings over the phone instead of mugging her in the street doesn’t make it a less serious offence,” says Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne.

“These results prove that criminal gangs are grooming our vulnerable, lonely and often elderly residents, robbing them of their life savings and potentially the ability to look after themselves.”

The results were unveiled ahead of the Sussex PCC’s first Listen Live summit in Brighton tonight to tackle elder exploitation.

spcc_elders_2Asked if they would report being a victim of fraud, the overwhelming majority (94%) said they would but fewer said they would report it if they had been ‘scammed’: 86% confirmed they would report it.

When questioned on what might discourage them from reporting a scam, almost one in five weren’t sure who to report it to while tragically 16% felt it was their responsibility to learn from their mistakes and not repeat it. 15% of respondents felt police and other agencies are too busy to be troubled, 14% weren’t sure how to report it and 11% didn’t think it would achieve anything.

“There are more than 40 organisations working to tackle fraud across the UK so we wanted to get some of those doing amazing work in Sussex to sit down together and discuss what can be achieved,” added Mrs Bourne.

“We need clearer messages that everyone can understand – it’s no use having 20 different phone numbers for people to contact if they’re the victim of fraud. We want to find out what else can be done to prevent this epidemic of elder exploitation.”

spcc_elders_7Other key findings of the survey include:
• Almost all respondents (97%) agreed that fraud which specifically targets older people is a serious crime, with nine out of 10 supporting the need for tougher jail sentences for those who target older people in this way
• Many were keen to see banks and other financial institutions better train their staff to spot unusual customer cash withdrawals and transfers with 92% in favour. 96% felt bank staff should ask customers about unusual cash withdrawals and transfers
• Respondents were asked if the information they see about fraud clear or confusing – the majority (84%) said it was clear
• The top five most trusted sources for advice about avoiding fraud were the police, Action Fraud, banks or credit card companies, Trading Standards and Neighbourhood Watch.

John Wright, Chair of the Sussex Neighbourhood Watch Federation, said: “It was a real eye opener and a pleasure to carry out this research in partnership with the Sussex Elders’ Commission. We now have a clear insight into how people perceive the threat from frauds including scams, and guidance we can use to help fight back against these fraudsters.

“These organised criminals need to be taken down to help protect those most at risk in our communities, those who are least able to fend for themselves. We succeeded in slashing the number of household burglaries, let’s now work together to tackle fraud.”

Listen-Live-LogoListen Live: Fraud and Elder Exploitation takes place today (Thursday, 23 March) at the Brighton Jubilee Library from 6pm until 8.30pm.

The event will be streamed live on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SussexPCC and viewers will have the chance to ask questions too. You can also follow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SussexPCC using the hashtag #ListenLive.

Notes for editors

The survey was distributed via Neighbourhood Watch as well as through the Sussex PCC’s social media, in the local press and via Katy Bourne’s weekly newsletter (results were 3,145 and 62 respectively).
The survey ran from 1 January to 31 January 2017 and there were 3,207 respondents, equivalent to 0.2% of the Sussex population.
For more information contact Ellie Evans on 01273 337781 or email Elinor.evans@sussex-pcc.gov.uk

About Neighbourhood Watch in Sussex:

Neighbourhood Watch has been active in England and Wales for over 30 years. It is the largest voluntary organisation in the country. Its traditional main areas of involvement are to promote good citizenship and greater public awareness through Neighbourhood Watch groups, increase public participation in the prevention and detection of crime, reduce the fear of crime, improve police/community liaison and increase community safety, in partnership with recognised authorities and other relevant organisations. There are nearly 4,000 Neighbourhood Watch schemes across Sussex.

For more information about Neighbourhood Watch contact:
John Wright MBE, Chair, Sussex Neighbourhood Watch Federation, on 07917 385213 or email enquiries@sussexnwfed.org.uk, or:
Derek Pratt, Deputy Chair, Sussex Neighbourhood Watch Federation, on 07726 730562, email derek.pratt@btconnect.com

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