8 May 2011
Anyone can be the victim of a scam, but the elderly are at particular risk. The Finnish Consumer Agency website now includes an information package that can help families recognise scams directed at their relatives and break the vicious circle.
New items begin to appear regularly at the home of your elderly relative. He or she often receives various requests for assistance or fund-raising letters by mail or calls from strangers. These can be signs that this person has become the target of a scam or questionable marketing. The Finnish Consumer Agency’s Scam website now includes information about how relatives, friends and neighbours can prevent their loved ones from becoming the victim of a scam.
The most typical fraud attempts targeting the elderly include various lotteries and drawings and fund-raising scams. Swindlers can approach consumers by telephone or by letter. If the consumer responds they can end up on lists maintained by swindlers, after which the number of contact begins to increase.
The elderly can also be scammed in the form of various services offered at home. For example, the person providing the services may exaggerate the cost of their work and subsequently charge unreasonable sums.
People can also experience difficulties on the Internet even if they are accustomed to using a computer. Swindlers can use lottery winnings or inheritances to convince victims to provide their credit card number or personal data by e-mail.
The elderly are also more likely to be the target of questionable marketing. Telemarketers can take advantage of the fact that after a conversation people may not want to decline an offer or may not fully understand the commitment being made. The elderly may order expensive products which they don’t need or enter into a continuous subscription for a monthly product package.
The best way to avoid scams is to think twice before responding to offers or requests. People shouldn’t send money to strangers or give out their bank account or other personal information. Promises of promotional game prizes or rewards should not be trusted.
While compiling its website, the Consumer Agency consulted with the ICT Association for Seniors, the Union for Senior Services, the Central Union for the Welfare of the Aged, Suvanto ry (Finnish Association for Shelters for the Elderly) and Suomen Senioriliike (Finnish Senior Movement).
In 2007, the Consumer Agency/Consumer Ombudsman launched a cooperation network to combat scams, which includes authorities and organizations as well as Luottokunta (Finland’s credit card service) and Itella Corporation. The model for the Finnish cooperation network is the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN), which includes over 30 countries. ICPEN was established in 1992 and the Finnish Consumer Agency/Consumer Ombudsman has participated in its activities from the beginning.