Published: 14:06, 01 October 2020
| Updated: 14:08, 01 October 2020
Cyber criminals stole over £75,000 from older people in Kent last year.
Kent Police received 127 reports of cybercrime between April 2018 and March 2019 from people aged 55 and over.
The data comes from charity Age UK, who put a Freedom of Information request into Action Fraud, the national fraud reporting centre.
In total, people aged over 55 lost £77,788.
They made up 16% of the overall number of cybercrime victims in the county.
Nationally, the total loss reported from these crimes is £4,025,813.
However, as it is estimated that only 3% of cybercrime is reported to authorities, the actual figures are likely to be much higher.
Map shows how money has been lost to cybercrime across the UK
Cybercrime, or computer orientated crime, can take many forms but some of the most common examples are phishing, investment fraud, identity theft, fraudulent adverts and blackmail.
And the charity believes the problem only got worse during lockdown; statistics also show older people in England and Wales have been scammed out of over £2m because of Covid-19 related fraud.
There were 3,162 coronavirus related fraud and cybercrime reports made to Action Fraud between March 23 and July 31.
Of those, 701 had a victim aged 55 and over, which accumulated to £2.4 million in reported losses.
The majority of the fraud linked to coronavirus involves online purchases for personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks, that never arrive.
Criminals have also been sending phishing emails and texts claiming to be from the Government, HMRC, BBC TV licencing and health bodies to convince the recipient to open links or attachments and get them to reveal personal or financial information.
'Online crime is often highly sophisticated and tough to spot so anyone can be taken in...'
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: "During lockdown the majority of us relied on the internet to stay connected and we know that some older people were also encouraged to go online for the first time.
"That's hopefully something they have enjoyed and benefited from and will want to continue now lockdown is being eased.
"However, unfortunately we also know that cybercriminals were very active in exploiting the situation, seeking to con older people out of their hard-earned cash.
"Online crime is often highly sophisticated and tough to spot so anyone can be taken in, but if you are new to the internet and learned to use it in a rush, with little support, you are potentially more vulnerable to being caught out."
The charity has released some advice to prevent people being conned, including not opening emails or attachments from people you don’t know, making sure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus software and ignoring phone calls that say your computer has a problem or a virus, as this is a scam.
Other advice includes researching sellers before buying online, ignoring emails offering 'brilliant investments' and reporting any suspicious behaviour.
Ms Abrahams adds: "No one should feel ashamed to ask for help from family and friends and for all of us, whether we are experienced computer users or not, sticking to the simple online safety rules remains tremendously important.
"These include being on the alert at all times for the risk of a scam, not opening attachments in emails that come from an unknown source and remembering that if we are offered an online deal that looks too good to be true it almost certainly is.
"Fraud and cybercrime can have catastrophic and life changing effects, not just financially, but on older people’s health and wellbeing.
"It can also have a massive impact on their confidence and can lead them to stopping going online altogether.
"Since lockdown began there have been over 3,000 reports of fraud and cybercrime from people aged 55 and over. We know it is a hugely underreported crime, so these figures are likely to just be the tip of the iceberg.
"All this means that older people, like everyone else, need to go online with their eyes wide open to the potential risks, but the internet still has a huge amount to offer and we recommend anyone who hasn't yet taken the plunge to do so, preferably with some help and support.”
Older people and their families can find advice and tips on staying safe online by calling Age UK’s free advice line on 0800 169 65 65 or at www.ageuk.org.uk/scams .
If you think you’ve been scammed contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.