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Preventing online fraud is key as World Elder Abuse Day focuses on financial exploitation

15 June, 2017

As we increasingly live our lives through the internet – shopping, banking and socialising online – crime, especially fraud is a growing concern. We know that when it comes to these offences the criminals will relentlessly target the most vulnerable in our society, especially older people.

Research for the United Nations released as part of today’s World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) has revealed that 5-10% of older people may experience some kind of financial exploitation every year. Focussing on the UK, the recent Fraudscape 2017 report by Cifas has identified that those aged over 60 are the most vulnerable to cyber fraud, especially account takeover, where fraudsters take over the victim’s bank account using their personal details.

The internet offers fantastic opportunities to bring people together and recent data from the Office of National Statistics has shown that almost 80% of adults aged 65-74 have recently used the internet while the figures for those 75 and over have doubled since 2011. At the same time this is a population that is growing. In Lancashire alone, we anticipate that there is likely to be more than a 50% among the population aged 65 and over by 2037.

It is crucial for us to come together to combat the threats and risks that this group faces. As the national Policing Vision 2025 states:

“As people do more and more online, the threat from cybercrime grows – whether it’s fraud, data theft, grooming and exploitation of children or stalking and harassment.[…] Policing has to focus on protecting people from this type of harm through the development of new tactics and capabilities”

For fraud and cybercrime the challenge for Police and Crime Commissioners around the country is one of prevention. Through our police and crime plans and work in our communities, we need to ensure that vulnerable people of all ages are protected from being targeted online. With this type of fraud, too often the money that is taken can be gone in seconds and lost forever – sent to the other side of the world in an instant.

Earlier this year I launched the Be Scam Wise campaign in Lancashire working alongside the police and Neighbourhood Watch teams to help educate and raise awareness of the different types of scams people might face. From banking and computer scams, where people are being asked over the phone to give their banking details, to romance or dating scams where people use fake identities to con their way into people’s affections just to rob them of their life savings – all of these issues were highlighted and taken out into communities. It’s through making potential targets of these crimes aware of the risks and how to spot scams that we can help to mount a meaningful defence against the fraudsters.

In addition, I know that PCCs are engaging in some excellent innovative work up and down the country. For example in Sussex, Katy Bourne PCC has established the Sussex Elders Commission bringing 60 to 85 year olds together from across the county. This is a great way to ensure that when it comes to combatting crime such as fraud, older people can have their voices heard.

As life expectancy increases, and more of our lives are led online, we must keep working to ensure that people of all ages are safe from the threats of cybercrime and fraud. I look forward to working with my fellow PCCs to meet these challenges.

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