Although anyone at all can become a victim, older people in particular are at special risk of becoming the targets of attempted fraud. Because of illness that can reduce their functional capacity, for example, older people can be particularly susceptible to influence.
A scam targeting older people normally starts with the person responding to a contact from a fraudster. After that they will continually get more and more scam letters and phone calls collecting money.
Typical frauds targeting older people are various scams by telephone or though the post such as different raffle or lottery frauds as well as fraudulent collections. They may also be easier targets than others for frauds related to offering services at home. They may be tricked for example through exaggerating the difficulty and costs of jobs.
Fraudsters can also stalk victims on the net. Even though the basics of computer use (e.g. use of email) are familiar, fraudsters get people to give credit card numbers or other personal information by email.
As well as actual fraudsters, older people may also fall victim to inappropriate marketing more readily than other people. For example they may be sold expensive product packages by telephone for which they have absolutely no use.
As a relative, friend or neighbour, you can prevent fraud happening to those close to you. You can do this be telling them what the characteristic signs of fraud are, and also by telling them where they can get help if needed.
Be alert, keep your eyes open for warning signs
Ask those close to you whether they have received unusual post or strange phone calls. Try to do it discretely so that they do not get upset, worried or panic unnecessarily. Pay attention to the following:
- does a person you are taking care of get a lot of junk mail?
- do they often get phone calls from strangers?
- do they become secretive when discussing financial matters with family or friends?
- is their home full of cheap looking tat such as jewellery or health products?
Many victims of fraud are embarrassed to talk about it or they refuse to believe that they have been tricked. Criticising a victim of fraud does more harm than good. Instead you should calm them by explaining how common the problem is and giving them tips on how to avoid being defrauded.
You can help those close to you protect themselves by talking about the letters and telephone calls they have received and giving some simple advice:
- Never respond to an offer immediately. Talk to a relative, a friend or neighbour or your carer before you send any money.
- Never believe anyone who tells you that you have won in a lottery or who promises you a large prize – they want you to send money or order something and you will never receive the promised winnings.
- Never give your bank details or other personal details to people you do not know.
- Always check that any bills you receive are genuine.
- Register for a service that bans direct marketing by postal and telephone sales. If you get a lot of phone calls in spite of the ban, the only way to get rid of fraudsters’ calls might be to change your telephone number.
- Take care your computer security and keep it updated. It is best to set programmes to update themselves automatically.
If someone close to you does not want to talk about the problem or will not accept advice, do not give up. The fraudster will not stop until their victim has lost all their money – even if it means that their victim loses their home and their life savings.
If you suspect that someone close to you has become the victim of a crime by paying fraudulent bills, then you should report it as a crime to the police.
If someone close to you receives an offer for a product or service in the form of a bill, then report it to the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority.
Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority
If you suspect that someone close to you is no longer able to look after their own interests and manage their financial affairs, you can ask the local register office about the possibility of applying for a guardian for them.