Charity warning after 91-year-old scammed out of life savings

Older people scammedIndependent Age has issued a warning after 91-year-old Agnes was conned out of tens of thousands of pounds, and was left trying to borrow money from her family. The charity says Agnes is one of an estimated half a million older people bled dry by the scammers.

SEE ALSO: Investment scammers target Surrey but Norfolk hotspot for dating and lotto fraud

See also: Scamwatch: vehicle tax refund fraud

Agnes has been targeted by a series of scammers over the past three years. In the first place she was hit by a boiler-room shares scam, where she was sold thousands of pounds of worthless shares.

Her daughter Catherine and son-in-law Rodney had no idea what had happened, until she rang them to ask to borrow some money, saying she had to make a payment on her shares. They then found out that she had spent all of her savings buying worthless shares, with the family estimating she had spent thousands of pounds.

Rodney immediately reported the scam to the police. He then found out that his mother-in-law had received a call from someone offering to buy back the shares from her, if she made a payment to "release the funds". That's when she asked Rodney and Catherine for a loan of £4000. The couple recognised this as part of the fraud, and tried to persuade Agnes not to send any more money.

Unfortunately Agnes' problems didn't end there: being the victim of one scam meant that Agnes was then targeted by more scammers, after being put on what is known as a 'suckers' list'.

Rodney says, "After that came a raft of companies trying to flog her stuff by mail and phone. They'd tell her 'You have won a house,' or, 'Congratulations! You have won £15,500', 'You will be lucky', 'There's a cheque waiting for you', or 'Act now to see if you are a winner.' None of these 'prizes' were ever going to arrive. They are scams. It was so frustrating trying to communicate that to her."

Rodney and Catherine only found out by chance that Agnes had been the target of these scams when they discovered she was losing £600 a month. At first, they thought that Agnes's account had been compromised. They then found out that she had been sending cheques to these companies to buy items from them; often she didn't even know if the things she had bought had been delivered.

"She tells me she is buying the stuff for her friends in the village. She is being secretive about what she's doing," says Rodney, "We have tried to sit down and talk to her about it. It's tragic, scammers are taking advantage of her. Her mail is awash with junk mail. I think, at the end of the day, whatever money she has left in her account, it is her right to do with it what she wants, but these people are villains."

Rodney says, "Scammers are leaching money drip by drip from my mother-in-law. They are crooks and wretched people. They are disgusting. The problem is that when she dies she wants to leave something to her grandchildren. I feel powerless to help her. She sits at home and talks through the calls that people make to her. She talks to anyone that phones her."

Although anyone can be the victim of a scam, older people may be more vulnerable because scams often target people who live alone, are at home during the day, have more savings and valuables and are willing to talk to fraudsters. In 2015, the Financial Ombudsman found that 80% of phone scam victims were aged over 55 and 65% of doorstep scam victims were over the age of 75.

What can you do?

Lucy Harmer, Director of Services at Independent Age, said: "Agnes' story is tragic, and even with support and advice from her family they say she still ended up as a victim and losing probably tens of thousands of pounds." The organisation has produced a Scamwise guide, with lots of information on spotting and avoiding scams.

Harmer has also put together 10 do's and don't to help protect yourself


1. Be suspicious – Treat unexpected communications with suspicion, even if they're not asking for money. Always ask for identification before letting anyone into your home, and call the company they say they're from to check who they are. Don't ring a phone number on an ID card – look up the company in the phone book instead. A legitimate tradesperson won't mind you doing this.

2. Take your time – Don't let scammers pressure you into buying anything or making decisions on the spot. Ask for time to consider and check the accuracy of what you've been told.

3. Seek expert advice – If someone you don't know offers you an investment opportunity that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Always speak to an independent financial adviser before making any investment. You can also check with the Financial Conduct Authority to see if a company is registered.

4. Be cautious when buying online or over the phone – Use a credit card rather than a direct bank transfer to pay for things like goods and holidays, as you'll be more protected as a consumer if anything goes wrong.

5. Create strong passwords – Strong passwords for your online accounts will make it more difficult for hackers and scammers to access them. Stringing together three random words can create a strong and memorable password. You can also use a mix of numbers, lower and upper case letters, and punctuation. Make sure you have different passwords for all online accounts.


1. Give out personal or financial details – Whether over the phone, via email, or in person, don't give any personal information out until you've confirmed that the person getting in touch is genuine. If you're not sure, don't risk it.

2. Transfer money to someone you don't know – Don't transfer money from your account to a new or unfamiliar account, even if the person calling or emailing says it's to protect your money or the account is in your name. Never send money to someone you've only met online, no matter how much you feel you can trust them.

3. Call back unknown numbers – If you get a missed call from a number starting 070 or 076, don't call back as you may be charged a very high rate for making the call. They might look like mobile numbers but are actually premium rate numbers.

4. Give out your PIN – The bank and police will never ask for your PIN. The same goes for your card or cheque book, so don't hand these over to anyone who calls or comes to your door to ask for them.

5. Feel ashamed if you do get scammed – Remember, anyone can be the victim of a scam, no matter what their age, background or income. If you have been scammed, it can be very distressing, but don't feel embarrassed: you're the victim of a crime and it's important that you report it and get any support you might need.

Victims of scams and fraud
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Victims of scams and fraud
Susan Tollefsen, Britain's oldest first time mother, was scammed out of £160,000 by a fraudster she met on an online dating site. A man claiming to be an Italian gold and diamond dealer told her he was in the middle of a land deal but couldn't access cash. Tollefsen felt sorry for him and started wiring him money, eventually selling her jewellery, her flat and borrowing £32,000 from friends to give him. Read the full story here.
In March 2015 an American woman who was only identified as 'Sarah' went on the popular US television programme the Dr Phil Show to reveal she had sent $1.4 million to a man that she had never met. Although she was certain she wasn't being scammed, her cousin made her go on the programme because she was convinced it was a scam. Find out more about the story here.
Maggie Surridge employed Lee Slocombe to lay a £350 deck in her garden in March 2015. However Slocombe used a combination of lies to scam Surridge out of thousands of pounds. He told Surridge that the front and back walls were dangerous and needed rebuilding and also conned her into building a porch, all for the cost of £8,500. Read the full story here.
It's not just individuals who can be the victims of scams, big corporations can also fall foul of these fraudulent practices. In 2015 Claire Dunleavy repeatedly used a 7p 'reduced' sticker to get significant amounts of money off her shopping at an Asda store in Burslem, ending up with her paying just £15.66 for a shop that should have cost £69.02. Read the full story here.
Sylvia Kneller, 76, was conned out of £200,000 over the space of 56 years thanks to scam mail. The pensioner became addicted to responding to the fraudsters, convinced that she would one day win a fortune. Ms Kneller would receive letters claiming she had won large sums of money but she needed to send processing fees to claim her prize. Learn about the full story here
Leslie Jubb, 103, became Britain's oldest scam victim in August last year when he was conned out of £60,000 after being sent an endless stream of catalogues promising prizes in return for purchasing overpriced goods. The extent of this con was discovered when Mr Jubb temporarily moved into a care home and his family discovered what he had lost. Find out more about this story here
Stephen Cox won more than £100,000 on the National Lottery in 2003 but has been left with nothing after falling victim to two conmen. The 63-year-old was pressured into handing over £60,000 to the men who told him his roof needed fixing. They walked him into banks and building societies persuading him to part with £80,000 of cash while doing no work in return. See the full story here
Last year the Metropolitan Police released CCTV footage of a woman who had £250 stolen at a cash machine in Dagenham. The scam involved two men distracting the woman at the machine, pressing the button for £250 then taking the money and running away. Read about the full story here.
Rebecca Ferguson shot to fame as a runner up on the X-Factor in 2010 but fell victim to a scam artist last year when someone she had believed to be a friend conned her out of £43,000. Rachel Taylor befriended the singer in 2012 and claimed to be a qualified accountant, so Ferguson allowed her to look after her finances. Instead of doing this Taylor stole £43,000 from the Liverpudlian singer. Read more here
When Rebecca Lewis discovered her fiance had started a relationship with a woman he met online she packed her bags to leave. But that didn't stop her checking out the mystery woman, Rebecca quickly realised Paul Rusher's new love was actually part of a romance scam. She told Paul just before he sent the scammers £2,000 which was supposed to bring his new girlfriend to England. Find the full story here.

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