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Dublin: 11°C Wednesday 17 August 2022

Older people driven to banks by criminals to 'take out large sums of money'

Burglaries are still the most common crimes against older people.

Image: old woman image via Shutterstock

BURGLARIES REMAIN THE most common crimes perpetrated against older people in Ireland with bogus callers tricking vulnerable people into allowing them into their homes and even convincing them to take large sums of cash out of their accounts to hand over.

In an interview with this week, Sergeant Kelvin Courtney of the Garda National Crime Prevention Unit, said ‘distraction burglaries’ are still common, despite warnings over the last few years of the dangers.

“You have bogus callers at the home and they get entry into the house on a pretext and a lie,” he explained. “They call to the house and say “can I have a glass of water” and then someone else will go around the back. They might offer a service like getting the gutters done or the windows washed and gain access to the house that way or worse still get the money out of you by saying it’s cash upfront.”

We’ve had stories of older people being driven down to banks to take large amounts of money out to give them.

“They will try to strong-arm people, they might leave a foot against the door – it’s generally intimidation with a smile,” Courtney continued. “They’ll put the pressure on as well, they might say this is a deal for today and you’ll never get this price again and you don’t necessarily have to be an older person to be caught by that.”

A number of initiatives have been launched by gardaí to inform older people about what to do when someone calls at their door. The force has a number of crime prevention leaflets specifically for older people as well as campaigns highlighting the crimes that are targeting them. A pilot scheme in the Cavan, Monaghan and Meath areas sees active older people calling into more vulnerable people to give them advice and Courtney said it is hoped this can be rolled out nationwide.

Online scams

Gardaí have also been made aware of a number of phone and internet scams that older people are particularly vulnerable to.

“In particular, you have the ransomware scam where they tell a person that their computer has been completely locked and only the crime prevention unit in An Garda Síochána can unlock it. And you have to send us €200 – that’s definitely not us,” he said. “You see, they can send out so many emails – millions at a touch of a button. You only need one or two to come back for it to be worthwhile.”

Age Action Ireland runs computer skills classes for older people and spokesperson Eamon Timmins said volunteers cover internet security and go through the various precautions a person needs to take with online banking.

“When people are new online, they do get suspicious but what we say is, if people have their wits about them it can be wonderful,” he said. “Especially for those who are housebound, there are far more benefits for them but they have to take the right precautions to protect themselves.”

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Both people we spoke to about this had similar advice for older people to avoid being taken in by bogus callers and scams in general:

  • Keep your doors and windows locked;
  • Put the chain on your door when you answer and ask for ID;
  • Never give any personal or financial information over the phone, online or in person;
  • Don’t be strong-armed into paying for a service you don’t actually need;
  • Join a neighbourhood watch group or sign up for a community alert system;
  • Take decent photos of valuable items you own in case they are stolen.

And one last piece of advice from Sergeant Courtney: “If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.”

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