Warning for ‘silver surfers’

‘silver surfers’ in Angus are being warned to be vigilant for criminals who are scamming older victims with increasingly cunning online scams.

With the number of older people using the web and discovering social media channels growing, fears have been raised that they are increasingly becoming the prime targets for internet cons.

Many take place without the victim being aware and range from social networking and financial scams to those relating to online employment or auctions.

The latest warning comes from the Scottish Business Crime Centre (SBCC), as part of a new campaign to raise awareness of various issues that can place older people at risk of financial harm.

Gary Ritchie, SBCC assistant director, said: “The increase in ‘silver surfers’ using the internet as a way of communicating now means that older people are increasingly exposed to these crimes. Older people in particular are prone to falling for e-mails that appear legitimate because they look like official e-mails from a well known bank or unsolicited mails where the scammer tells of recent disastrous events which have left them stranded, usually in a foreign country with no money and no passport.

“Sadly, these people are frequently conned out of huge sums of money. Crimes against people who perhaps don’t have the same capabilities or support to protect themselves as others is appalling and has no place in Scotland.”

One of the most prominent online scams is ransomware; a category of malicious software which, when run, disables the functionality of a computer and displays a pop-up message demanding payment to restore functionality.

The pop-up advises law enforcement has locked the computer and suggests that this is a result of the user viewing indecent images or terrorist sites.

These pop-ups use the logos of recognised UK forces so victims are easily fooled and it is thought that more than £3 million a year is being extorted from victims.

Chief Inspector Ronnie Megaughin, of Police Scotland and who also chairs the Adults at Risk from Financial Harm Group, said: “There are a number of factors which require to be present for frauds or scams to be successful and the vulnerability of the victim is at the heart of that equation.

“While anyone can be duped, those who are most vulnerable within our communities are faced with the greatest risk.”

He added the ‘Keeping People Safe’ campaign being managed by the Adults at Risk from Financial Harm Group aims to put in place a range of prevention measures necessary to safeguard individuals and reduce criminal opportunity.

A booklet containing information and advice on a variety of scams has been created and produced by The Metropolitan Police Service’s Operation Sterling Team and is available to download for free by visiting http://www.sbcc.org.uk/media/84031/little_book_of_big_scams.pdf.