The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) reviewed 185 phone scam cases involving “vishing” (voice fishing) and “no hang up” frauds and found that 80 per cent of victims were 55 or older. One in five victims was aged over 75 years old.
One in five people had lost between £20,000 and £49,999, while some victims had been scammed out of more than £100,000, according to the FOS study, which looked at cases involving total losses of up to £4.3 million.
Vishing scams involve criminals tricking people out of their savings by pretending to be from a legitimate body such as their bank or the police. The no hang up scam is a type of vishing, where fraudsters persuade consumers that their account is at immediate risk and tell them that they need to move or withdraw their money urgently, using technical tricks on the phone line to add to the plausibility of the scam. Sometimes, fraudsters stay on the phone line after speaking to the victim, so that when the victim puts the phone down and then tries to call their bank, they will still be speaking to the fraudster.
Most no hang up frauds seen by the ombudsman involve online money transfers, but some take place in branch. In some cases, people are tricked into giving away their Pin numbers over the phone and others give their card to a “courier” who then delivers it to the fraudster.
The report said: “Our advice to consumers is to always check who you are dealing with before you hand over any cash and don’t respond to unsolicited calls, texts or e-mails.”
“A particularly challenging area of our work – because of the nature of what’s happened and its impact on the people affected – is financial fraud. Some of the most upsetting situations we’ve been called into have involved voice phishing, or “vishing”’ – in particular, “no hang-up” frauds. “
It added: “These deceptions can be very convincing – with consumers tricked into believing they’re protecting their money, when in fact it is being stolen. Among the people who have contacted us, many have been over 75 and have lost significant amounts of money – in some cases their life savings. And, because of the way the fraud is carried out, most people won’t get their money back.”
Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: “It is critical that banks act swiftly to help victims of scams and provide them with accurate information on their rights. With scams becoming much harder to spot and fraudsters using aggressive tactics to hook their victims, the old adage still stands, that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Last week, Financial Fraud Action (FFA UK) said that that £23.6 million was lost in 2014 across the UK due to victims being persuaded over the phone to transfer money from their bank account directly to fraudsters. It said banks will never ask people for their full Pin numbers or ask them to key in their Pins into the phone keypad. They will never send someone to a customer’s home to collect their bank card.
The ombudsman said people should never give out personal or banking information when answering an incoming call, and they should not rely on the caller ID for identification.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “That anyone would target an older person to defraud them is abhorrent but we know that older people are deliberately targeted and can be especially at risk if they are living with dementia and/or cognitive decline.
“Some older people are more vulnerable to fraud because they live alone or in isolation, but fraud is something that can happen to any of us.”