Over-55s lose nearly £26,000 to investment scams on average, says bank

Vicky Shaw, PA Personal Finance Correspondent

One in four investment scam victims in the past year has been aged over 55, losing nearly £26,000 on average, according to a bank’s data.

Lloyds Bank said that while the majority of victims tend to be younger, older customers aged 55-plus typically lose around five times the average amount lost by younger customers.

Some 26% of investment scam victims in the past 12 months were people over the age of 55, with the average amount they were losing to an investment scam at £25,944.

The remaining 74% of scam victims who were 54 or under lost £4,486 on average.

More than half (51%) of investment scam victims were people age 18 to 34, with an average loss at £2,000 as victims will have had less time over their lives to save.

Paul Davis, retail fraud prevention director at Lloyds Bank, said: “Helping keep our customers’ money safe is our priority and we are working behind the scenes 24/7 to help protect people, as being a victim of fraud can have a devastating effect not only on people’s finances but also their lives.

“Scammers do this for a living – they can invent convincing stories, send fancy-looking documents and sound professional and charming. But they’re ready to disappear as soon as they have their hands on your cash.

“As a rule of thumb, if you find yourself messaging someone on a social media website about an investment, then you are being groomed as a fraudster’s next victim.

“Search engines can be a great place to research potential opportunities, but remember that just because a website appears in your search results doesn’t mean it’s genuine. If you find an investment opportunity yourself online, then it pays to do extra checks to ensure you don’t fall victim to a scam.

“Scammers can easily clone websites, create fake documents and pretend to be someone else to trick people into handing over cash, so anyone planning to hand over money without seeking financial advice should verify that the opportunity is genuine by phoning the company on the number from the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) website.

“Never be rushed into transferring money or making a decision about an investment, and if you’re being told you need to act now, this should be a big red flag that it’s a scam.”

In one case, dealt with by Lloyd’s sister brand Halifax, an 81-year-old retired businessman completed an online questionnaire expressing interest in taking out a fixed bond investment.

The next morning, he received a call from a man from a well-known investment company suggesting they send him a prospectus.

A string of convincing activities then followed, including emails, a clone website and even calls from someone claiming to be a “compliance manager” checking the customer’s eligibility to invest.

The pensioner was keen to invest £80,000 that he had set aside for his children.

But when he contacted his Halifax branch, the manager asked for more details about the payment and expressed concerns about the “opportunity”.

He suggested making checks, and the scam came to light before the customer had lost his money.

The customer said: “If the Halifax team hadn’t flagged this fraud, the money would be gone. When I hear about friends and family making investments, I always ask them to double-check the company is legitimate.

“These scammers are evil, they go home to their normal homes and families and don’t see the people they’re scamming as people, they’re just after the money.”

Halifax has given the customer help and advice to stay safe in the future.

Research by Lloyds last November suggests a lack of contact with others has caused nearly a quarter of people to let down their guard against scams during the pandemic

Research commissioned by Lloyds Bank surveyed more than 2,000 UK adults and found that an estimated 3.6 million people have been scammed since the start of the coronavirus crisis.

Nearly a third (31%) of people surveyed gave out their personal details over the phone to someone they did not know.

Here are some tips from the Lloyds Bank fraud help hub to stay safe:

– Fraudsters will create fake websites to make you enter your details and send fake documents and use the names of people they have taken from legitimate websites. Fake websites may look unusual, or have spelling mistakes or may use odd or elaborate payment methods. Check the website address. A genuine site should also have contact details and a business number to call.

– Scammers like to call or email unexpectedly so they can put you under pressure to do something you would not normally consider. They will try to gain your trust and get you to invest your money.

– Common investment scams involve precious gems or metals, wine, land abroad, cryptocurrencies or energy.

– Criminals can do lots of research before they get in touch, so they might know some details about you and your finances. They can even pretend to be someone you know and target you on social media.

– If you are asked to keep quiet about an investment, it is likely to be a scam.

– Talk to people you trust. Friends, family, and independent financial advisers (IFAs) can give you help on how to make the most of your money.

– Use the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to check companies. The FCA website has a register of companies that are allowed to offer products and services. It also gives advice on how to spot a scam and avoid fake companies.