Fraud threat continues to grow so watch out for vulnerable relatives | Personal Finance | Finance

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Online fraud is now the most common crime in the UK, with almost 6 million victims a year

The festive season brings families together and this can be the perfect opportunity to make sure everyone is aware of the growing threat fraudsters pose to their peace and prosperity. 

Mutual insurer Royal London is warning that as the fraud threat continues to grow, especially online, we all need to watch out for each other, particularly vulnerable older relatives. 

CHRISTMAS CON 

Helen Morrissey, personal finance specialist at Royal London, says as more families live further apart it is easy to miss everyday tell-tale signs of fraud: “Family visits over the festive season are an opportunity to make sure all is well and look for signs loved ones may have fallen victim to a scam.” 

Piles of post secreted away, fretting over missing deliveries and talk of high-returning investment opportunities may all be signs that family members or friends have been targeted.

However, Morrissey says fraud can be a difficult issue to broach with loved ones, who often refuse to believe they are being scammed: “Many are too embarrassed to admit what has happened to them so family members will need to be patient if they are to get the whole story.” 

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Older individuals are regularly targeted by fraudsters who see them as more susceptible


Being manipulated by fraudsters can lead to family disputes and the victim’s mental and physical health can suffer

Helen Morrissey


CRIME WAVE 

Online fraud is now the most common crime in the UK, with almost six million victims a year, according to the annual Crime Survey of England and Wales. 

Morrissey says while Britons of all ages can be targeted, older people who may be less tech-savvy or who are suffering from loneliness are particularly vulnerable, while the damage is not just financial: “Being manipulated by fraudsters can lead to family disputes and the victim’s mental and physical health can suffer.” 

One man, who asked not to be named, found that his elderly mother, who suffers from dementia, was taking out £50 a week from her bank account and sending it to postal scammers in the US, Canada, France and Eastern Europe. 

She was receiving up to 50 letters a month and had lost almost £4,000 over 18 months, until her son got Royal Mail to redirect all her mail to him. 

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More than £1 billion has been stolen from accounts in the past 12 months

DIRTY TRICKS 

Morrissey says any relative who receives large quantities of junk mail may be seriously at risk: “Once a potential victim’s details have been passed around a scammer’s network they are likely to get a lot of phone calls as well.” 

Also look for large quantities of goods, as scammers often say victims must pay for items to qualify for cash prizes. 

“Another warning sign is if they are anxious for the post in order to receive their winner’s cheque,” she adds.

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5 million adults have cancelled credit or debit cards in the past year because of attempted fraud

Be on your alert if a relative starts talking about some exciting investment opportunity that sounds too good to be true. 

The victim may also have struck up a rapport with their scammer, and consider them to be a friend.

Morrissey says: “Even if someone has not been scammed but you are concerned they might be, it is worth trying to raise their awareness.” 

If you do discover a scam report it to Action Fraud and Trading Standards, who can provide support in terms of fitting call blockers, taking away nuisance mail and putting the victim in touch with appropriate support services. 

FRAUD FRENZY 

An incredible five million adults have cancelled credit or debit cards over the last year because of attempted fraud, showing the scale of the challenge. 

More than £1 billion has been stolen from accounts in the past 12 months with £544 taken on average, according to research from CompareTheMarket.com. 

Worryingly, more than one in three victims had been scammed before, while half said the Government is not doing enough to protect consumers from cybercrime. 

CompareTheMarket’s head of money Shakila Hashmi says the peak Christmas shopping period is the perfect opportunity for online criminals and banks and credit card issuers are often too slow to flag suspicious activity: “One of the best ways to keep your money safe is to have multiple passwords and to change them regularly. They should also be hard to guess, so no obvious dates, names or locations. Be vigilant when making payments to keep cyber criminals at bay this festive season.” 

FAKE GOODS 

Last year, nearly £16 million was lost to Christmas shopping fraud, according to Action Fraud, with fake Yeezy trainers, Kylie Jenner makeup, hair-dryers, drones and Fitbit watches top of the list, often sold on auction websites. 

Action Fraud warns that if something seems cheaper than expected, it could be poor quality, fake or just nonexistent, and warns against transferring money direct to a stranger, suggesting methods like PayPal instead. 

Hannah Maundrell, editor-in-chief of Money.co.uk, says it is all too easy to get caught up with Christmas and lose track of where your money is going: “Check your bank statements and make sure you know exactly what each transaction is for. If you notice anything odd report it straightaway.” 

Be of good cheer, fraud may be a growing threat, but with careful planning you can prevent it from ruining your family’s Christmas.

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