A text service is being used to raise awareness of scams to older people in Mid and East Antrim. The service is being made available by Mid and East Antrim Agewell Partnership (MEAAP).
Speaking at a Mid and East Antrim Policing and Community Safety Partnership meeting on Wednesday, Jenny Marshall, executive director for community programmes, said:
“This year, we have done a number of projects to tackle scams. We are constantly on the ground trying to educate through the distribution of literature to try to raise awareness from initial what to look out for right through to someone who has been the victim of a scam.
“It is really important to normalise the conversation to ensure older people feel comfortable talking about it and report scams and seek support if they have been a victim of a scam.
“We hope to get across that scams can happen in any walk of life to anybody regardless of age.
“We are using this text message service as a way of getting that message directly into the older person’s hands. It is completely up-to-date. It has worked really well. It is a really simple, unique way to get the message across.”
Jenny went on to talk about a call block facility which can be provided by MEAAP, free to anyone over the age of 50 years, to halt nuisance calls. The device can recognise 2,000 pre-loaded numbers and comes with a button to press to end a call.
For those who have been the victim of a scam, MEAAP offers a telephone counselling service which, Jenny explained, started during the pandemic to help those experiencing isolation.
She continued: “We have made a number of referrals to it for victims who have really struggled with not only the financial impact but the emotional impact.”
She also commented on the impact scams can have on an older person’s health. “Whilst we are trying to put preventative methods in place, it can impact on an older person’s health further isolating them.”
Jenny went on to say this can be a “double whammy” for those who have been victims of romance scams.
“Very often, the hardest part for that person is opening up to a family member that they have been a victim of a romance scam.”
She reported bank scams continue to “feature heavily” across Northern Ireland with the most common form by telephone call or online. She also pointed out online shopping and auction site fraud is also common with reports of romance and befriending fraud and energy payment voucher scams.
“It never ceases to amaze me the scams that are coming through.”
Scamwise NI says 68 scams were reported to the PSNI last month with more than £240,000 being lost to people in Northern Ireland.
Internet and phone scams once again account for the biggest number of scams reported. Almost £100k was lost in 64 telephone scams and £144k in 73 internet scams.
Most victims, 41 per cent were in the 19 to
39-year-old age group; 30 per cent in the 40 to 59-year-old group; 21 per cent were aged 60 to 79 years and four per cent were 80 years plus.