Over half (53%) of people aged 65 or older have been targeted by fraudsters, according to a new survey by Age UK.
And the study found that a third of older people who responded to a scam may have lost at least £1,000.
The subject of scams aimed at the elderly has received a lot of press of late, with fears that the new pension freedoms offer a tantalising opportunity for unscrupulous crooks.
This latest piece of research highlights that older people are already clear targets for scammers, with over half receiving a phone call, text message, email or letter which they believe to have been a scam. Around 60% of those people did not report the scam, however.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said that fraudsters were employing "frightening" sophistication with their phone and online frauds, on top of the "brazen approach" of more traditional scams like high-pressure selling on the doorstep.
She added: "Government and other policymakers need to recognise the big and growing threat to older people that fraud represents and take much more determined action against it."
Age UK wants to see the next government establish a National Scams task Force to focus on tackling scams, which would report annually on progress and risks.
Keep on top of your finances with Track
The frauds aimed at older people
As part of its Only the tip of the iceberg fraud report, Age UK identified a number of scams which seem to be aimed particularly at older people.
As the name suggests, this is where the scammer attempts to con victims on their doorstep, and covers a wide range of fraudulent activities.
The scammer will try to befriend the potential victim, before increasing the pressure to sign up to whatever it is they are selling.
Analysis of victims of doorstep scams found an incredible 85% of victims were aged 65 or over. These are often also particularly vulnerable people – 62% lived alone, 63% had some form of physical impairment, while a quarter had concerns about their memory. Around one in 10 were known to have been victims of such scams in the past.
Account takeover and courier fraud
This scam involves the fraudsters taking over your bank account or credit card. This may be as a result of a phishing email, a phone call or text message which convinced the victim to share their personal or account details.
The courier version is where victims are contacted by scammers posing as their bank or the police, who tell them that their credit or debit card needs to be collected and replaced, perhaps because of fraud on the account.
The anti-fraud organisation CIFAS has said that older people appear to be at particular risk here, with the proportion of older victims increasing substantially compared to other age groups. This may be because they tend to have higher credit limits, as well as being less likely to check their balance between statements.
Before the pension freedom changes, the most popular pension fraud was pension liberation, where victims were deceived into cashing their pensions early, resulting in losing most, if not all, of their savings. These scams target the under-55s.
However, with pension freedom changes now (legitimately) unlocking the pensions of millions of over-55s across the nation, there is now a fresh opportunity for scammers to get their hands on savers' pension pots.
Keep on top of your finances with Track
There are a number of simple steps you can follow to ensure that you don't fall for these, or any other scam, no matter your age.
Ignore cold calls: if you get a letter, email or phone call out of the blue offering a can't-lose investment opportunity, or claiming you've won a lottery that you don't remember entering, you should always ignore them. They are almost certainly a scam.
Don't buy on the doorstep: If you answer the door to someone you don't know who wants to sell you something, insist on seeing an identity card. You could also phone the company they represent to check they are legitimate. However, it's probably safest to simply put up a notice saying that you won't buy on the doorstep. Remember, they will try to pressure you to sign up, but genuine offers generally don't require an immediate decision.
Protect your details: If you get an email, supposedly from your bank or building society, asking you to confirm your personal details you should be suspicious. If you are ever asked for your PIN, it's definitely a scam – your bank will never ask you to share details like that.