At Lifeline24, our mission is to help older people stay safe. We’re protecting older people by providing a high-quality personal alarm service that offers independence and peace of mind. Here on the blog, we’d like to go even further by giving older people some practical tips to avoid crime. In this article, we will share plenty of hints and tips to help you avoid becoming a victim.
Protecting Older People Against Criminals
In the modern world, there are so many ways in which you can become a victim of crime. Criminals have more platforms than ever before to use. Cybercriminals can use telephones, smartphones, and the internet to target people. Meanwhile, traditional criminals are still targeting people and property, whether you are away from your home or inside it. There are lots of different scams and criminal activities out there. This means that protecting older people from crime has become harder. However, you can fight back against criminals, with help from our useful guide.
Unfortunately, older people are a common target for criminals. This could be because older people are often more likely to be vulnerable or live by themselves. However, even if you do live by yourself, there are plenty of ways to protect yourself. If you think you may have been the victim of crime, or you suspect that a crime is taking place, we’d always recommend reporting it. The woman in the video below was targeted by fraudsters. After she reported the crime, the criminal received a prison sentence.
Next, we’re going to take a look at the most common crimes and scams that affect older people. For each one, we’ll give you practical advice and tips for older people to avoid being the victim of crime.
The telephone has been the device of choice for criminals for many years. Each year, fraudsters will come up with new techniques and pose as different companies in order to trick people into handing over their money or private information.
In most phone scams, criminals pose as employees from your bank, internet provider or local authority. For example, in a bank scam, the person on the other end of the line may try to convince you that there has been a security breach. They’ll claim that they need your account details to regain access. Of course, what this means is that you are giving your private information to the criminals, who would then proceed to empty the bank account.
In scams where people pose as your internet provider, a fraudster might call you and explain that a virus of some kind has infected your PC. They will either try and get you to download some form of software to fix this, or they will try and gain remote access to your PC. The fraudsters will use this power to steal any personal information from your computer, including all your passwords to your online bank account, emails and shopping outlets.
Tips to Avoid Phone Scams
- Don’t answer. Fraudsters commonly use private caller ID or unusual telephone numbers. If you’re unsure or suspicious of who is calling, then don’t answer your phone. In most cases, fraudsters won’t leave a message, they’ll move on to their next target. On the other hand, if it’s someone genuine who needs to contact you, they’ll usually leave a message or contact you another way, such as by email or post.
- Never share your bank details. Your bank will never call and ask you to move any money to another account or to share online banking details, your personal security number, or PIN. If a caller claims to represent your bank and asks you for any of these things, hang up. Halifax has an online guide to spotting a scam caller claiming to work for them.
- Don’t give access to your PC. Your internet provider would never ring you to say that there’s a virus and that they need access to fix it. If you need to give somebody remote access to your PC, make sure that it’s somebody you can trust.
- Ask plenty of questions – Fraudsters don’t like it when you ask questions. You should ask as many questions as you can to try and catch them out. If they are claiming to be from a certain company, they should know everything about it. It’s highly likely that they will become agitated and hang-up. They’re also likely to get something wrong or contradict themselves, at which point you’ll know they’re not genuine.
Of course, as soon as you become suspicious, the easiest thing to do is to end the call. On a mobile device, you will be able to block the number so that they cannot call you again. We advise that you share this number with your friends and neighbours so that they don’t become a victim. If you find you’re getting nuisance or suspicious calls on your landline, there are blocking services you can use. Speak to your landline provider for more details. They’ll have their own strategies for protecting older people from telephone scams, although there may be a charge for these services.
The internet is a wonderful tool for older people. You can do your shopping, talk with your friends, share photographs, pay your bills, and manage your bank accounts all in one place. Sadly, with all these benefits come a couple of risks. One of those is cybercrime.
The Office for National Statistics releases a Crime Survey for England and Wales every year. According to the latest report, an estimated 4.4 million cases of fraud took place in the year ending September 2020. Many criminal organisations have switched their focus from physical crime and are now targeting web users around the world. Criminals don’t even have to be in the same country in order to steal from you, which is even more worrying! The best way of protecting older people from cybercrime is through education. Make sure you’re aware of the most common tactics in order to keep yourself safe from crime.
Most Common Forms of Cybercrime
- Phishing emails. These emails are designed to trick people into opening links and attachments. They might look like official emails from your bank or another legitimate business. Once you open the link or attachment, a malware virus will attack your PC, with the ability to steal your data in the process. Things to look for include poor grammar, spelling mistakes, threats, suspicious-looking links, fake graphics and strange sender email addresses. Also, beware of generic introductions such as “Dear Sir/Madam” – your bank will usually address you by name in any email and provide some kind of verification.
- Hacking. This is the most well-known form of cybercrime. Hacking is when someone breaks into a computer system that they are not authorised to use. Businesses and organisations are often the targets of hacking, as they hold personal data belonging to thousands, sometimes millions, of people. In some cases, hackers will gain access to your computer and demand payment for you to regain access. This is known as ransomware. According to the ONS, nearly half of businesses and more than a quarter of charities have reported cyber-security breaches in 2020.
- Identity Theft. This is when criminals steal personal information, such as ID and debit card details. They can then use this information to buy things and gain access to more important documents. Fraudsters can access this information via phishing emails and hacking. They can then empty your bank accounts, take out loans, take over your existing accounts, take out multiple mobile phone contracts and obtain documents such as passports and driving licences. Often, they will also your ID to commit further crimes.
In cities and towns, it isn’t unusual to have people knocking on your front door. Door knockers can often be perfectly harmless salespeople, tradesmen, or fundraisers. The problem when it comes to protecting older people is that it’s not always easy to know whether someone is genuine.
Unless you are expecting somebody, the safest thing to do would be to ignore them. If possible, take a peek out of your window or through a peephole on your door and see who is there. If you don’t recognise the person or you feel suspicious, then don’t answer.
On occasions when you do answer the door, you should do the following:
- Only open your door on the chain.
- Ask for photographic ID to prove that the knocker is who they claim to be.
- Ask plenty of questions.
- Don’t think twice about saying no and closing the door.
If the door knocking is constant, then please contact a member of your family or the Police. You can also readily pick up a ‘no sales or cold callers’ sticker to put on your door, which can at least let some door knockers know you won’t answer.
If a salesperson or workman comes to your door promoting their business, you should always be wary. If you do open the door, you should first follow the tips mentioned previously in this article.
Many builders or other workmen will knock on your door and try to convince you that some form of work needs doing to your home. They will say that they have noticed something about your home that needs repairs or work. This could be:
- Tree cutting.
They will then proceed to give you a price for all the work and ask for the money upfront. In some cases, the “builders” will start the work but then never come back – leaving you with an unfinished project and a huge hole in your wallet.
The sad reality is that older people are the main targets. Salesmen will try their best to confuse you by using jargon associated with the industry, whilst pressuring you to sign up. The key thing to remember is that if you really needed what they were offering, you would already have had it done.
As with other general door knockers, the best thing to do is to close the door and end the conversation as soon as possible. If you feel frightened or suspicious please call the police, a loved one or press your personal alarm button.
The key thing to remember is that if you really needed what they were offering, you would already have had it done.”
There are plenty of security options for you to install for your home. If you are concerned, start with CCTV and a burglar alarm. Just having these visible on the exterior of your home will make criminals think twice about targeting your home.
There are also basic upgrades you can make to your doors and windows. These could include mortice locks, night-latches and door chains. You should also invest in some weather-proof padlocks for your gates and shed.
You can also purchase some more advanced items that make use of modern technology. Digital door viewers are great at protecting older people from doorstep scams. These devices allow you to see who is standing at your door – they connect to a small screen to give you a clear image of the person on the other side. You can also install smart door locks, which use smartphones, key cards and tags rather than keys.
Tips to keep your home safe:
- Lock all doors and windows when you leave the house.
- Keep all your keys out of sight away from windows and your letterbox.
- Keep any ladders or tools locked away so that burglars cannot access them.
- Make sure any gates are locked and fences are in good condition.
- Install a personal alarm. If you’re ever suspicious, you can call for help with the touch of a button.
If you hear or see something suspicious or you feel unsafe for any reason, please call the police immediately.
When you leave your home for a longer period of time, such as going on holiday, follow these practical tips to reduce the chances of crime taking place:
- Ask a family member or neighbour to visit your home at different times, to open and close your curtains.
- Get somebody to park their car on your drive so it looks like you’re home.
- Ask someone in your family to house-sit.
- Use automatic timers on your lights to give the appearance that you are at home.
- Avoid discussing your holiday online. You don’t know who might read this!
- Cancel any milk deliveries during this time. If the bottles stack up outside, people will know that you are away.
- Take advantage of the Royal Mail Keepsafe service.
When you arrive at your holiday destination, it is important to listen to what your travel rep is telling you about the resort. The common concerns for older people on holiday are ticket touts overselling excursions, unlicensed taxi drivers overcharging, and thieves targeting your belongings.
Be cautious and don’t carry too much cash around with you. Use the safe in your hotel room to store valuables. It’s always a good idea when exploring new places or busy areas to have all your belongings in a bag that goes across the body, rather than in your pockets – this way they can’t be snatched. You can also purchase a hidden purse that usually attaches around the waist under your clothing, so cash and cards are well out of sight.
Protecting older people at home
When it comes to protecting older people from crime, there are plenty of actions that older people can take to keep themselves safe. The advice we’ve shared in this article is a great place to start. Remember, if you’re ever suspicious or concerned about something, please contact the police immediately on 999. Please use the non-emergency police number (101) if the situation isn’t urgent.
One of the best ways of protecting older people at home is to install a personal alarm system. For more information on purchasing one of our life-saving personal alarms, please speak to one of our friendly advisers on 0800 999 0400. Alternatively, get in touch online via email or social media and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
You can also order a Lifeline personal alarm online today. All our alarms come with free next-working-day delivery, so you can feel safe and secure in your home within just 24 hours. For more information about protecting older people, see our guide to staying safe at home.
Editor’s Note: This article was last updated on 22 March 2021 to reflect current information.
It was originally published in May 2018.