Fraud targeted at the elderly was among the main topics covered by police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne in her address to the Worthing Neighbourhood Watch Association at its AGM last Thursday evening.
With one in eight of us expected to reach 100 years of age by 2020, and one in six expected so to do by 2050, the percentage of elderly people within the population will increase and it is they who are most vulnerable to criminal activity, especially as they are more likely to be better off.
Research by the Sussex Elders Commission revealed that one in five elderly people were more afraid of the phone ringing than of being assaulted when outside their homes.
Many older people are lonely and trusting.
This makes it easier for fraudsters to “groom” them, via either telephone or the internet, and they are adept in persuasion.
One of their victims was a gentleman who held a PhD who swindled out of his life savings of £500,000, which he was persuaded to invest in bogus mining operations and fake “fine wines”.
He didn’t report the frauds and the police only found out about them through a neighbour and carer.
On average, £23,000 is being lost by Sussex residents and people have been found at Beachy Head with the idea of committing suicide as a result of their losses.
Fraud against elderly people is a form of elder abuse, which is defined as a single or repeated act or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.
Katy Bourne is pressing for it to be made an aggravated offence, in line with racially or religiously motivated offences.
Meanwhile, Neighbourhood Watch members can help to reduce the risk – a ten-minute chat on a regular basis with an elderly neighbour will go a long way towards achieving this.
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