"Each month we see many incidents of fraudsters targeting our residents in an attempt to defraud them. We’re working hard to prevent this and support vulnerable victims of fraud or scams. By following our tips and encouraging family, friends and colleagues to do so too, you can reduce the risk of becoming a victim."
Detective Chief Inspector Simon Doyle, Surrey Police & Sussex Police Economic Crime Unit
Family Whatsapp Scam
Surrey and Sussex Police have seen an increase in the number of reports from victims who have received WhatsApp messages from what appears to be their son or Daughter. The victims typically receive a message on WhatsApp from someone's number claiming it is their son or daughter who is in urgent need of money, and they require funds to be transferred into an account given. The criminals will typically begin the message with “Hi Mum” or “Hi Dad”.
In most cases, the urgent message would come from an unsaved number claiming that it was the victim’s son or daughter who had a new phone number.
Unfortunately, in some cases victims have reported losses of thousands of pounds.
In all cases where a victim lost money, they have transferred funds to a bank account provided. In a recent West Sussex example an elderly female transferred £2000 to a fraudsters bank account, believing to be helping her daughter out in a financial emergency, whilst an 80-year-old male from Redhill sent £850 to a fraudster purporting to be his son. He had received a message to say he had lost his phone and needed a new one and was using a friend’s phone to contact him.
Always contact the family member or friend on a genuine contact method you have recorded for them and check they are in genuine need.
Check the message wording and spelling, does it sound like the family member?
If you are unsure on a transaction made, please contact your bank immediately.
Phishing Emails & Text Messages
This is where an email or text message that appears to be from a legitimate company asks you for your personal details, confirmation of login or bank details or passwords; or it may try to install malicious software on your device. Recent examples reported locally include companies purporting to be HMRC, Sky, and Microsoft.
Does the message come from the official email address? Always click on/ hover over the sender’s name to reveal their actual email address.
Are there spelling and grammatical errors? Legitimate emails will almost never contain these types of mistakes.
Does the link take you to a different URL than the one shown? Scammers will often change the display of links to make them appear more legitimate. If you hover over a link, you can see where it is taking you.
There’s no personalisation. Usually, companies will use your full name. If fraudsters do not have access to this information, they may use generic greetings like “Dear friend” or “Dear valued customer.”
Suspicious Email Reporting Service
The Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS) was launched by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and the City of London Police in April 2020 to enable the public to forward suspicious emails to an automated system that scans them for malicious links.
Since its launch, almost 21 million reports have been made to the service, resulting in the removal of over 235,000 malicious websites. You can report suspicious and phishing by forwarding the emails to: [email protected]
Mobile phone providers also offer a service that allows customers to report suspicious text messages, by forwarding them to the number 7726.
The service is free of charge and enables providers to takedown malicious websites and block malicious texts from being sent across their network.
As of 31 May 2023, 54,000 text message scams have been removed as a result of suspicious texts forwarded to the 7726 service.
Raising Awareness for Elder Abuse
With an ageing population, Elder Abuse needs more prioritisation in the UK. It suffers from lack of funding and support and receives less awareness and recognition than any other demographic.
The formal reporting of abuse committed against older people is extremely low with conviction rates being almost non-existent. This is often linked to the short life expectancy that can result in the victim dying before their perpetrator has been brought to justice.
Victims are often reliant on the care provided by their perpetrator who may be their only social contact.
As more people struggle to keep up with rising costs, there is an increased risk to older people who are being put under pressure to hand over their inheritances earlier, leaving them more reliant on the perpetrator, financially struggling, or even without. There has been a significant increase in financial abuse cases since the cost-of-living crisis began.
Hour Glass Charity and what they do:
Hourglass is the only UK wide charity that supports older victims of abuse, and one of the agencies that we are partnered with regarding referrals via our Victim Hubs. They offer a Freephone 24/7 helpline and a casework service to support victim-survivors, and they create safety plans tailored to the unique circumstances of the individual that work towards recovery and moving on.
Hourglass report that their calls have risen from 4,000 in 2018 to over 30,000 in 2023, and often relate to financial, psychological, sexual, and physical abuse. Despite the common perception that most abuse takes place in care homes, it is actually within the home, and committed by those that the older person needs to be able to trust and rely on, such as intimate partners and other family members.
In 2020, Hourglass carried out research which identified that almost three million older people had been affected by abuse in the UK. Despite the numbers, awareness, funding, and support is significantly less than other demographics. In the most recent second reading of the Victims and Prisoners Bill in the House of Commons, this community was not mentioned once.
To learn more about the abuse of older people go to www.wearehourglass.org or visit the Knowledge Bank at knowledgebank.wearehourglass.org
Hourglass is available 24/7 on 0808 808 8141 or via SMS 078 6005 2906 – the website also features Instant Message and Chatbot services.