Protecting Vulnerable Elderly People from Scams and Fraud

As a legal technology company for private client practitioners working on bereavement and loss of mental capacity cases, and one of the founders of the Vulnerable Banking Group, Estatesearch’s technology and expertise supports legal firms in putting policies and procedures in place that protect the best interests of clients, particularly those that are considered vulnerable.  We aim to help to ensure vulnerable people are treated fairly and educating law firms on how our services form part of a best practice approach is a big part of that goal.

I am also board chairman of Re-engage, a charity that inspires and enables meaningful connections and shared experiences within communities across the UK for people 75 and over facing loneliness and social isolation.  Therefore, when Re-engage shared their research with me about the impact of scams and fraud on isolated older people I wanted to help them highlight the importance of the findings.

In November 2023, Re-engage published one of the largest surveys to date of predominantly over 75s who live alone: 20231109_lr2_re_scam_report_20pp_final.pdf (  Re-engage commissioned the University of Portsmouth to conduct the research and worked alongside Aviva to develop the resulting training and education materials.

Key research findings included:

  • From a sample of 1177 older people, 80% of which were aged over 75, over two thirds of older people have experienced attempted scams and 8.3% were actually victims, which is higher than the Crime Survey for England & Wales (CSEW) rates.
  • At least two-thirds had experienced at least one fraud attempt in the past 6 months. One fifth experienced at least one attempt weekly or more, and between a third to 40% monthly, with 3-4%, experiencing daily attempts.
  • 21% of respondents said they had not received any advice on scams or fraud in the prior six months and 27% said they had not received any useful advice.
  • According to a previous research study, the main type of scam experienced by older people is telephone scams. Almost three quarters of attempted scams start with a telephone call.
  • A minority (38%) indicated they used call blockers and very few registered to receive scam alerts (9%).
  • The most trusted form of communication were traditional paper letters, with 60% trusting. Around a fifth trusted email, landline telephone calls, text messages and visitors to the house. Mobile phones were the least trustedwith only 14% trusting.
  • 28% of people who had been a victim of crime in the prior five years experienced a high impact on their quality of life, compared with 14% of those who were not a victim.
  • 25% of older people felt unsafe answering the phone and around a third felt unsafe using the internet, buying online and banking online.

Many respondents shared their stories:

“I went online to find the address and phone number of my local Citizens Advice Bureau. I found what seemed to be what I was looking for and in return for £1,000 paid by card received advice. I subsequently noticed a debit of £5,000 from my account. My bank helped get the money back and blocked the payee. I have now learnt my lesson and pass the warning to friends and family.”

Between March 2022 and November 2022, Re-engage used the findings from the baseline survey to help develop training and guidance materials about scams and fraud for both volunteers and older people:  Scams and fraud online learning resources for volunteers (

Recommendations include:

  • Greater attention and support should be directed at older people most likely to be vulnerable: people living alone with poor social networks, people suffering health problems (physical and mental), prior victims of fraud or crime and people whose partner has recently died. This attention should include a risk assessment and advice of potential measures to reduce the risk of fraud.
  • Re-engage and other organisations working with older people should continue to promote fraud/ scams awareness in its communications using appropriate messaging that does not scare older people.

Following the research, Re-engage also encouraged volunteers to become SCAMchampions, who complete further training so that they can train others as Friends Against Scams.  The team also promoted the Scam Marshal scheme, which involves sharing own experiences, helping others to report and recognise scams, and sending any scam mail received to the National Trading Standards Scams Team.

Sharing information and case studies with volunteers further highlighted the issue and importance of having conversations with older people about scams and fraud.

Jenny Willott, CEO of Re-engage said:  “There is vast under-reporting of scams due to the stigma attached to being a victim.  Volunteers, carers, social workers and other trusted professionals can ensure that older people are able to talk about their experiences and their fears.  Fraud has a significant impact on many older people, who either become actual victims of fraud, or struggle with repeated attempted fraud, or who experience anxiety and concerns that they are going to fall victim.  Our recommendations, resources and training can now help those who build trusted relationships with older people to support them to report and prevent crime.”

Discussing fraud and scams is a powerful way to raise awareness and also to reduce stigma. Conversations can take away the fear of the unknown, which can result in improved wellbeing and happiness in older people. At Estatesearch, our legal clients regularly support older clients, a demographic who are already a target for scammers, added to that the fact that they may have diminished capacity or be grieving the loss of a loved one and they become even more susceptible to someone trying to take advantage. We hope that by highlighting Re-engage’s important research findings and providing access to their online resources, we can help more professionals working with older people to recognise the fears faced in relation to fraud, and how to support their vulnerable clients in navigating the risks.

For further information about Re-engage please see:

For further information about Estatesearch please see:

By Jonathan Upton, Director, Estatesearch

This article was submitted to be published by estatesearch as part of their advertising agreement with Today’s Wills and Probate. The views expressed in this article are those of the submitter and not those of Today’s Wills and Probate.

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