Dolores is my wife’s 94-year grandmother. She is active, lively and has “all her marbles”. However sometimes that’s still not enough.
A couple of years ago my wife’s cousin, Toby, was staying with Dolores and went to answer the phone when it rung. Sweet Dolores shouted in a very direct way “Toby don’t!”. He was surprised by her uncharacteristic vehemence and started asking questions.
In fact, it was when I heard about this specific incidence that I began to realise that much more needed to be done to help protect the elderly and vulnerable from an ever-growing problem: Fraud and scams!
The cause of Dolores not wanting the phone answered was that “It’s only nasty people selling you things that don’t exist”. It transpired that she had received a cold call from a “nice man”, who had convinced her that she needed a call blocking service. She said that it sounded like a good idea and went on to pay £600 for the service., Unfortunately she never received anything in return and it turned out to be a complete and utter scam.
Fortunately Dolores has sufficient means that the £600 loss wasn’t going to be life changing however; as we were beginning to see, the other consequences of the fraud were in fact far more insidious.
Firstly, despite having lots of family living nearby, she had not told anyone about what had happened. Her feelings of “having been a fool” and the perceived stigma of having been a victim, meant that she bottled it up and kept the entire experience to herself as an embarrassing secret. Our recent research report “Breaking the Taboo” highlights how unwilling and uncomfortable people feel about talking about such matters and the need to encourage everyone to share their experiences and knowledge of fraud and scams.
Secondly was the isolation this scam caused. As a 92-year-old Dolores does not drive anymore and although quite mobile for her age, she spends a lot of her time at home. The telephone is her main window to the outside world. Bearing in mind her solution to avoid it ever happening again was to not pick up the phone at all anymore, this effectively left her feeling very much alone..
Thirdly, every time the phone rang, there was a daily reminder of what had happened and her perceived foolishness. According to Action Fraud this kind of scam (known as vishing), claims over 100 victims every day in the UK, so it’s a big problem that needs to be addressed. Given the fact that professional scammers can be extremely convincing, we believe that victims should feel no shame. With scams becoming ever more sophisticated too, anyone who thinks that this sort of thing only happens to 92-year-old ladies is also deluding themselves. This is clearly evidenced by FinancialFraudActions data which suggests that last year over 50% of UK companies fell victim to this family of frauds (Phishing, Vishing and Smishing).
At Reassura, we believe that everyone should be free and happy to enjoy all benefits of modern life. No one should be upset or fearful every time the phone rings. The answer is not stop picking up the phone but to educate those at risk about these types of fraud and to follow a few safety tips:
- When you receive any cold calls, or if you are not sure if the caller is genuine, hang-up, find the number of that organization from directory enquiries, the phone book or Google and call them directly yourself
- Fake callers will often insist that the matter is very urgent matter. This is often a big sign that the call is a scam
- Listen out for the background noise at the caller’s place. Is it very noisy? Does it sound like a credible business?
- Never give out full PIN codes or online passwords to anyone on the phone
- Avoid making payments over the phone unless you are 100% certain who the caller is and what you are paying for
- Do not buy anything from a cold call
What happened to Dolores inspired me to start Reassura. I wanted to create a helpful, trustworthy business providing comprehensive anti-fraud advice and a service that people could call for a second opinion about any potential scam or fraud.
Dolores was our first member. Dolores no longer worries whenever she receives a phone call.
Reassura is dedicated to helping raise awareness of scams and fraud and the impact they have on their victims. Reassura’s team of specialist anti-fraud advisors are on-hand to offer advice designed to help individuals make better informed decisions and avoid the unpleasant consequences of becoming a victim. For further information visit: https://reassura.com or call 0800 888 6400