Many people in Sheffield struggling to make ends meet are being sized up by devious con artists - scammers - who are targeting vulnerable people with squeezed finances to swindle them out of their money.
Scams have been deployed in Sheffield comprising of criminals tricking people into giving to them their personal details, in order to commit ID fraud through fleecing money out of bank accounts, or via going on spending sprees and even through making false insurance claims.
Other scams involve duping people into transferring money from their own account into a trickster account, using convincing lies to present scams as plausible.
The scammers can comprise of individuals, but often they are set up and operated as sophisticated organised gangs who work full time thinking up new and inventive ways to con innocent people. Anyone can fall victim to a scam.
Over the last few months, I have been getting increasingly concerned at the numbers of older people coming to me for assistance, arising from them being scammed out of hard-earned savings.
The scammers have been ruthless and not caring at all who they hurt or harm.
Every case I have dealt with has been very distressing, not only for the older person but for their family.
Very often, the older people scammed, contend afterwards with feelings of shame going over and over in their minds ‘if only’ scenarios and ingesting into themselves blame.
The scams leave behind for those targeted not only financial hardships, but also an abiding sense of daily dread and for family members of victims, a pervasive feeling of their relatives being very vulnerable and no longer safe, even in their own homes.
One case involved a mother aged 95 and her son aged 78, approached in their home on a council housing estate in Sheffield, by a man impersonating a police officer who took from them the money they had both saved to pay for their funerals.
They felt under great threat and the son, seeking to protect his frail mother in their home, conceded to the demands of the false ‘police officer’ to hand over all monies o face the consequences from him and others he claimed who were waiting outside.
Having reported the scam to police, I sought to see if they might be able to claim for reimbursement through their insurance company, given its marketed services to older people and the fact these people had been paying premiums for over two decades. An insurance payment of any kind was refused on the basis of the son ‘being complicit in the crime’! for having (under duress) handed over the money.
Another case involved an older woman, aged 77, who was scammed into transferring sizeable amounts of hard-earned monies into a false bank account, under guise that she was being instructed to do so by her own bank.
Telephone numbers given to her by the scammers,were presented to be genuine ones, when she took the precaution of ringing these numbers back for verification.
In reality, the scammers held hostage her telephone line and on her ringing through to what she thought was her own bank, her calls were diverted to their own operation, through them laying a technical cloak of plausibility to dupe the unsuspecting vulnerable woman.
I have found older people are not always reporting these crimes, due to self-blame and even due to their harbouring fear of serious reprisal, also due to banks and insurance companies jumping to suppress claims.
More needs to be done, not only to raise awareness of the extent of these crimes and how to mitigate against them but by way of Government investment into police services.
Insurance companies and banks have a duty of reasonable care and they should be open more to compensating victims in genuine cases.
Age is a protected equality characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 and as older victims of scammers are pointing out to authorities, the purposeful targeting of older people in order to commit criminal acts, is being experienced by them, as a ‘hate crime.’
Our Sheffield older people contributed to the social good of our society down the decades, we have a duty to ensure, as a city, that they are given the due regard, respect, gratitude and protection that they not only need but which they richly deserve.
Safeguarding them from scams is an integral element of this.