Elderly People in the UK Lost Over £4m to Cybercrime Last Year

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Cyber-criminals stole more than £4m from elderly people in the UK in the financial year 2018-19, data received by the charity Age UK has revealed.

A freedom of information (FOI) request submitted by the charity to the UK’s national fraud reporting center, Action Fraud, showed that the police received 4173 reports of cybercrime from people aged 55+ from April 2018 to March 2019. Of those that became victims, a total loss of just over £4m was recorded. Those in this age group represented 19% of the overall number of reported cybercrime victims in this period.

Prominent examples of cybercrime included phishing, investment fraud, identity theft, fraudulent adverts and blackmail.

Worryingly, the FOI request also revealed that elderly people have been heavily targeted by COVID-19 related fraud in recent months. Of the 3162 instances of COVID-related fraud and cybercrime reported to Action Fraud between March 23 and July 31 2020, 701 involved a victim aged 55+; total losses for these elderly victims amounted to £2.4m in the four months.

The most common forms of COVID-related scams included purchases of fake PPE equipment and phishing texts and emails purporting to be from government and health bodies.

Age UK said cyber-criminals have taken advantage of the increasing number of elderly people relying on the internet for everyday services such as shopping as well as to stay in contact with friends and family during lockdown, in many cases for the first time.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, commented: “During lockdown, the majority of us relied on the internet to stay connected and we know that some older people were also encouraged to go online for the first time. That is  hopefully something they have enjoyed and benefited from and will want to continue now lockdown is being eased. However, unfortunately we also know that cyber-criminals were very active in exploiting the situation, seeking to con older people out of their hard-earned cash.

“Online crime is often highly sophisticated and tough to spot so anyone can be taken in, but if you are new to the internet and learned to use it in a rush, with little support, you are potentially more vulnerable to being caught out.”

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