Money Transfer Thieves Target Elderly
The Think Jessica campaign, which is raising awareness of the emotional and financial costs of scams, says that scammers prey on the most vulnerable members of society: the elderly. Scam is a serious, endemic problem causing financial and mental devastation to millions of silent victims.
A survey conducted by Help the Aged and Barclays revealed that seven out of ten older people in Britain – more than 6.6m people – are targeted by scams every month. Whether by telephone, letter, email or ‘scratch card lotteries’ fraudsters use a variety of tactics to panic victims into making immediate transfers from their banks into criminal accounts.
Transfer Company Security Measures Blocking Theft
Vulnerable and trusting, the elderly are targets of transfer thieves, and transfer companies are using their regulatory practices to do all they can to block criminals from their victims’ lifesavings. So many victims have appeared at MoneyGram and Western Union that these companies are now prepared to deal with the frauds. All currency companies, in fact, have compliance departments that are expertly trained to examine each transfer for signs of suspicious activity. They are prepared to decline the transfer, acting against their client’s wishes, in order to act in their best interests. They often have a tough job of explaining this to clients who were thoroughly convinced by con artists to part with their money.
It takes an average of 20 minutes to convince most victims of scams that they have been duped, say MoneyGram compliance managers who see this sort of scam nearly every single day in some regions. This due diligence (and patience) on the part of transfer companies have saved many pensioners from theft, but unfortunately, every day more scammers will escape detection.
3 Million People in UK Victimized by Fraud in 2016
The volumes of money being stolen from unsuspecting victims is difficult to tally; many elders find it very difficult to discuss money, let alone an embarrassing slip of judgement they regret. The National Scams Team says that each year mass marketing mail scams, which often target vulnerable or disadvantaged consumers, cause approximately £3.5 billion worth of detriment to UK consumers. And, according to Consumer Direct, three million people in the UK fall victim to mass marketing scams annually; the average losing £850 to thieves.
The National Trading Standards Scams team estimates postal scams could be netting criminals worldwide up to £10 billion a year.
And these are only the official figures; clearly much more money is stolen each year since most victims don’t report these crimes.
A Pound of Cure
Even after victims have fallen for a scam, money transfer companies may be able to recoup their losses. If the money was transferred from Western Union or MoneyGram within less than 24 hours, contact the company and request their assistance. If the money was sent by a bank to bank transfer, which can take 3 days, chances are it can be recovered in less than 48 hours.
We’ve compiled a list of common scams with the hope that you will share it with family, friends and neighbours to save them from becoming victims of fraudsters.
1Tax Extortion/HM Revenue & Customs Rebates
A phone call from a person claiming to be from a government agency asking for money to cover ‘back debts’ insists you wire the money to settle the amount owed. No matter how convincing, any ‘government employee’ asking for money is a fraudster. An email from HM Revenue & Customs promising a rebate is also (sorry!) a scam.
2 Foreign lottery
If you receive a notice about winning a lottery, no matter how official it looks, and are required to pay a fee to claim your winnings – or if you receive a phone call telling you to ring some expensive premium-rate telephone number in order to claim your ‘star prize’ – don’t. Beware of demands to send additional money in order to be eligible for future winnings.
3 Prize draws/Sweepstakes
A letter, email or telephone call congratulates you for winning a large prize; to claim it you must purchase a small prize or send a fee. Reading the small print, you’ll see it’s only an opportunity to enter a sweepstake with no chance of winning. These small jackpots seem more plausible than large prizes – that’s how they are designed to fool people.
Check if the mailing comes from a member of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) at dma.org.uk. Reduce unwanted mail for free with the Mailing Preference Service at mpsonline.org.uk or call 0845 703 4599.
4 Premium-rate telephone numbers
Correspondence by post, SMS or automated voicemail claims that you have won a major prize and to receive you must call an 090 premium-rate number. You’ll be put on hold for a long time to receive a token prize worth less than the expensive phone call.
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) says this is a huge scam that over 1 million people fall victim to each year, with most losing around £80.
To safeguard against these calls and texts and reduce unwanted sales calls and messages, register your phone number with the Telephone Preference Service at tpsonline.org.uk or call 0845 070 0707.
To report the scam, forward the unwanted texts to Phonepayplus on 020 7407 3430. Call on 0800 500 212 or go to phonepayplus.org.uk.
5 Buying a bargain
A fantastic priced car is advertised and, once an enquiry has been made, the seller requests a deposit be made by a money transfer. Once the money is wired and received, the brilliant deal disappointingly disappears.
6 Internet purchases
Any on-line purchase that requires a buyer to transfer the purchase price in advance is not safe. Most often, the buyer will be out of pocket for any money transferred without receiving the goods paid for.
Any loan offer that requests a transfer for fees, taxes or advance payments isn’t trustworthy. Never transfer money to obtain a loan.
8 Pyramid schemes
The invitation to sign up to a money-making club, through websites but also through friends’ invitations, asks for a small joining fee in addition to inviting other people in order to claim a reward. Unfortunately, failing to recruit new members pays off for the top tier of the pyramid but those on the bottom rung lose an average of £930.
9 The Nigerian letter scam
Sometimes called the ‘419 scam’, this is a letter or email offering a reward for helping a stranger get money out of a foreign country. If it requests bank details, the fraudsters will raid the bank account. Alternatively, some recipients are told to send an upfront fee. Either way, not a penny of the promised payment will materialise.
10 Holiday scams
One of the costliest scams, the average victim loses £3,030 according to the OFT. Usually they begin with a scratch card with a promise of winning a free holiday. To collect the prize, you must attend a presentation – usually at a swanky hotel, replete with authentic looking promotional materials. Genuine holiday clubs will allow the consumer time to look over a contract before signing it, while scammers pressurise hopeful holidaymakers with limited time offers, often plying them with free alcohol. After signing the contract, it will become obvious that the ‘free holiday’ includes numerous hidden costs.
The UK’s European Consumer Centre (ECC) on 08456 040503 or via its website, ukecc.net offers support to those who have signed up to these clubs. The ECC can advise you on your rights and help in cross-border disputes.
11 Property investment
These scams cost victims an average of £4,240 a year. At a free presentation detailing how to make money from a property investment, swindlers press for an immediate investment whereas a legitimate firm wouldn’t be in such a rush.
12 Disaster relief/Charity scams
There are many legitimate ways to provide support to help people impacted by natural disasters. Never send funds using a wire transfer service to someone you do not know, on behalf of a charity, no matter how worthy the cause.
13 Clairvoyant letters
Especially frightening and upsetting to elderly victims, letters in the post personally addressed to them contain warnings that they could endanger their families if they do not reply. These letters swindle an average £240 from victims and can also cause emotional damage.