The Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland (COPNI) has warned that older people here are being bombarded by scam mail and calls in their own homes.
Eddie Lynch has just launched research showing that older people are at risk of constant, multiple attempts to scam them.
The report was launched by the Commissioner for Older People at a meeting of the Causeway Older Active Strategic Team (COAST) in Coleraine where the Commissioner spoke of his alarm at the figures and the need for action to be taken.
He said: “My research has found that many older people are constantly receiving unwanted telephone calls to their home. The levels of unsolicited calls and junk mail received goes far beyond the nuisance factor; they cause fear, annoyance and anger to the older people targeted. 80% of older people have received unsolicited calls to their home, with 38% also receiving calls to their home where no one speaks at least once a week. 91% of older people also receive up to 30 pieces of junk mail every week.
“I have been concerned for some time that the targeting of older people for scams has been on the rise. These figures are really worrying as evidence shows that older people can be more vulnerable than others to the techniques that scammers use. For example if communications have an official appearance, older people may be more likely to trust the source,” said Mr Lynch.
He continued: “Older people who fall victim to scams often lose huge amounts of money. It can cause relationships to fall apart, have a serious impact on the older person’s mental health and wellbeing, and damage their sense of trust, security and independence. As Commissioner I have heard of the terrible impact of scams, with one older man losing his marriage and having his family home repossessed after sending up to £70 per day to different mail scams. What’s more, older people who fall victim to a scam are more likely to be targeted again and victims of ‘cold callers’ are at a much higher risk of being burgled at a later date.
“I am encouraging older people to become scam aware and to think ‘Who’s Calling?’ when taking unexpected calls. Older people are usually very courteous but they should not be afraid to hang up on unknown callers and put junk mail straight in the bin - my report helps to show some of the different types of scams that are out there. I have also joined the Scamwise NI partnership which aims to “scam-proof” older people, their families and carers. Older people should visit https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/campaigns/scamwiseni for more information.”