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One in five of our pensioners has fallen prey to fraudsters, survey shows


Veronica Gray, Northern Ireland Director for Action on Elder Abuse

Veronica Gray, Northern Ireland Director for Action on Elder Abuse

Veronica Gray, Northern Ireland Director for Action on Elder Abuse

One in five pensioners in Northern Ireland has been targeted by fraudsters, it can be revealed.

More than 75,000 over-60s a year are the victims of financial crimes such as theft and fraud, shocking new figures have shown.

Eddie Lynch, the Commissioner for Older People, said he was "shocked and saddened" by the revelations.

He said: "The figure is even more alarming when you consider that under-reporting is common with financial abuse.

"This is because it is often difficult and painful for older people to report the crime, especially when the perpetrator is a relative, friend or carer."

The survey, commissioned by the Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland, revealed a huge range of financial schemes targeting the elderly.

Seven percent had experienced cash disappearing, demands for already-paid bills or requests for money that made them feel uncomfortable.

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Another 6% said they had felt tricked into buying something, or selling a valuable heirloom for less than it was worth.

Three percent said they'd been coerced into signing documents and 4% said they'd experienced problems with charities.

Veronica Gray, Northern Ireland Director for Action on Elder Abuse, said: "Financial abuse can ruin an older person's life.

"As well as depriving them of money or treasured possessions, it can leave people with feelings of shame, guilt or betrayal - especially if the crime is committed by a family member, as is often the case.

"The main message we want to get out there is simple: recognise it, report it, stop it.

"If you suspect that you are being abused financially, or if you know of someone who is, please tell someone who can help.

"Action on Elder Abuse exists to help older people and their families who are experiencing abuse and we can support people through what can be a very difficult process."

The charity is focusing on creating a joint response with the government, police and adult safeguarding agencies.

It also aims to help raise awareness about spotting the signs of financial abuse.

Ards and North Down was revealed to be an elderly crime hotspot, with 32% of pensioners saying they'd suffered from some form of financial abuse.

Causeway Coast and Glens however recorded only 9% of OAPs being affected, while Belfast reflected the Northern Ireland average of 21%.

Detective Constable Stephen Crooks, from the PSNI's Economic Crime Unit, said that he wasn't surprised by the figures.

He described financial abuse as a "hidden crime" where vulnerable victims are often targeted because of their age, which makes it easier for fraudsters to manipulate them.

He added that they were often targeted by the people closest to them, as well as cold callers.

Mr Lynch added: "I have seen the devastating impact that financial abuse can have on older people. Aside from the financial loss itself, this crime affects the emotional wellbeing of older people, bringing with it feelings of betrayal, embarrassment and fear.

"The findings of this report must underpin action to tackle financial abuse across Northern Ireland.

"It is time to put a stop to this type of abuse that, whilst often hidden, has a significant impact on the lives of older people."

For advice and support on all aspects of elder abuse please call the confidential Action on Elder Abuse helpline on 0808 808 8141

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