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Elderly warned over bogus schemes
The Insolvency Service has warned elderly people to be wary of bogus retail and investment scams
Older people are being warned not to fall prey to bogus retail and investment schemes, after 78 rogue companies raking in more than £28 million from people were shut down in the last three years alone.
The companies scammed almost 2,000 investors between them and the oldest victim was aged 92, according to the Insolvency Service, which wound the firms up.
The service has joined forces with charities to warn older people and their friends and family about the scams, amid fears that this age group is being targeted by "callous" conmen.
Forty-nine of the companies wound up sold plots of land for building that did not exist or were on protected green belt land; four sold wine stocks that did not yield any profits, and nineteen sold other forms of investment. Six sold retail products that were either unsuitable or at highly-inflated prices, including burglar alarms, mobility scooters, "heritage" coins and stair-lifts, the Insolvency Service said.
In one case, the Insolvency Service found that a mobility scooter was sold to an 80-year-old customer who had had both legs amputated, despite guidelines stating that the product was suitable for someone who had difficulty walking but had use of both legs. In the case of another company, a family invested £600,000 in a land banking scheme but it later turned out that plots of land had been mis-sold, the Service said.
Issuing their warning on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, campaigners said these scams often use high-pressure tactics or sell products at grossly inflated prices and conmen would cold call older people and refuse to hang up until they have closed a sale.
Robert Burns, head of investigation and enforcement for the Insolvency Service said: "We have observed a number of companies targeting older people in recent months. These scams are particularly unpleasant because they target the most susceptible members of society, older people who may be unsure how to seek advice or afraid to say no."
Mr Burns said if people have any doubts they should take time to research the company and seek out some independent advice.
Michelle Mitchell, charity director general at Age UK, urged people not to feel embarrassed to report a crime to the police and said they should also tell their friends and relatives.
Business Minister Norman Lamb backed the warning, saying: "These scams are especially bad as they target some of the most vulnerable members in our society. Older people have grown up trusting other people. To take advantage of this trust, and then exploit it is both manipulative and deceitful."
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