Vulnerable older people in Yorkshire are being warned not to feel embarrassed or ashamed at falling victim to scams after new research by Age UK found many people who are targeted end up suffering in silence.
Fred, a 96-year-old man from Sheffield, lost his entire life savings in a scam after handing over his credit card details to what he thought was a reputable company but turned out to be criminals.
He became dependent on his 88-year-old brother for support but after contacting Age UK, he is now £7,500 a year better off after the charity helped him apply for extra benefits he was entitled to.
The former engineer, who took part in the D-Day landings, was proudly independent despite suffering with hearing problems and becoming more frail in recent years.
Fred (not his real name) says that after having his money stolen, he ended up in a situation where his mattress was falling through his bed frame as he could not afford a replacement, while he was relying on his 88-year-old brother, who was already caring for his own wife, to help him with cleaning and laundry.
But Fred says his situation has improved after his brother contacted Age UK Sheffield’s Independent Living Coordination (ILC) service.
“I did not want carers as I manage to look after myself, but a cleaner who would check in on me regularly and help with the flat would take the pressure off my brother and be a big help to me,” he says.
“This was not the kind of service that I could afford though, as I had lost all my savings to a scam company earlier in the year.
“The ILC gave me lots of advice about keeping my money safe in future, and didn’t make me feel stupid for giving my card details over in the first place.
“I wanted my brother to be able to help me keep a check on my financial situation so Age UK helped me by supporting with sourcing and filling in forms for my bank so my brother could have a third party mandate for my account.
“While she was there she asked if there was anything else that was troubling me, and I mentioned my mattress was falling through my bed frame as it was in such bad repair.
“I couldn’t afford to replace it even though it was very uncomfortable.
“I had told the ILC all about my service history as a Royal Engineer and radar specialist during D-Day and she used the contacts she had with Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association to request a new bed for me, which arrived shortly afterwards and is wonderful.”
Fred was also helped to apply for Attendance Allowance to help him pay for a cleaner, as well as extra Pension Credit to the value of more than £7,000 per year.
“I no longer worry about the future and how I will pay for the extra support I may need,” he says.
Age UK says its research for Scam Awareness Month has found two-fifths of older people – the equivalent of five million people – believe they have been targeted by scammers, with single people aged over 75 most at risk of falling victim.
More than a fifth of people who had been targeted admitted to not telling anyone at all because they felt too embarrassed, with even those that did more likely to tell just friends and family rather than the authorities.
A spokesman for Age UK said: “If you’re worried you’ve been scammed, report it to Action Fraud. Scams can cause older people to lose their life savings and can really affect their quality of life. It’s sadly common for older people who’ve been scammed to suffer from depression and isolation, and some even become in need of more care.”
For more information about Scam Awareness Month, visit www.ageuk.org.uk.