Lancashire's over 55s are falling victim to cyber criminals

Older people are losing tens of thousands of pounds to unscrupulous cyber criminals who are plaguing victims with official looking government phishing scams.

By Stef Hall
Thursday, 8th October 2020, 3:45 pm

Fraudsters have scammed over 55s in Lancashire out of at least £108,343 between April 2018 and March 2019, alarming figures have shown.

It comes as more and more older people go online to work, shop and keep in touch with friends and family.

While the web has been a lifeline for many - particularly during the pandemic - criminals have moved quickly to exploit the situation.

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Over 55's made up almost a fifth of cyber crime victims in Lancashire

Figures show of the 422 people in Lancashire who fell victim to online fraudsters, 80 of them - almost one in five - were aged 55 or over.

The total lost by older victims in the county amounts to £108,343.

And as it is estimated only 3% of cybercrime is reported to authorities, the actual figures are likely to be much higher.

Lancashire Constabulary has revealed the majority of those relate to phishing scams - such as websites, emails, designed by fraudsters to obtain victims' personal information.

The websites or emails look like they’re part of an official government service, such as Universal Credit, HMRC, BBC TV licencing and health bodies to convince the recipient to open links or attachments and get them to reveal personal or financial information.

Computer orientated crime, can take many other forms including investment fraud, identity theft, fraudulent adverts, and blackmail.

Usually, frauds linked to coronavirus involve online purchases for personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks, that never arrive.

One victim, a 66-year-old father from east Lancashire, knows only too well the trauma that can be caused.

Criminals got into his e-mail account, and used his address to send out phishing emails purporting to be from government authorities.

His children had to assist him to sort out the mess.

He recalls: " I was devastated when I realised that people could get into my account.

" I felt that my privacy had been violated.

"It has left me in the position that I don't want to use the internet."

But during lockdown many older people feel they have had no option but to turn to the internet to stay connected - often without the proper support and guidance that they may want or need.

Those that were isolated or needed help getting essential shopping may have been doing so for the first time, which could put them at extra risk.

Olivia Dodding, of Lancashire Police's Cyber Crime Unit, says: "This year, we have seen an increased amount of elderly individuals utilising online services to stay connected with their families and friends.

"As a consequence, we have experienced an increased amount of reports in Lancashire relating to online fraud and cybercrime affecting elderly individuals.

"The main type of cybercrime has been phishing scams in which individuals purport to be Government officials or Universal Credit."

"Action Fraud have revealed that older individuals in England and Wales were scammed out of over £2.4m during lockdown as a result of online fraud, specifically Covid-19 related fraud.

"We are urging individuals to create strong passwords by utilising three random words.

"Two factor authentication should also be activated on accounts to prevent unauthorised access and updating devices ensures the newest security features are activated on your device."

Age UK is warning older people across the country to be extra vigilant and providing advice to support them.

The figures emerged from a Freedom of Information request to Action Fraud, the national fraud reporting centre, on the charity's behalf.

Despite the amount involved, Lancashire wasn't in the top 10 worst affected regions - the biggest was London where people over 55 lost £720,795.31 to cyber criminals.

Stay safe online

*If you use a computer, don’t open emails or attachments from people you don’t know. Make sure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus software and ignore any phone calls that say your computer has a problem or a virus, as this is a scam.

*Make sure the company you are buying from online is reputable - does the company have a contact number that works and a postal address, and is it a member of a trade association?

*If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is so ignore emails offering a brilliant investment - if you reply it shows your details are active which encourages scammers to contact you again.

*Anyone can be taken in by a scam, so don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed if it happens to you - contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to report it and get help.

*If you receive an email with a strange request or from an organisation you are unaware of, forward it to [email protected]

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