Recent figures gathered by charity for the elderly Age UK show that door-to-door visits from bogus tradesmen occur over five and a half thousand times a year in England and Wales.
How elderly people are being targeted
In the particular brand of fraud peddled by door-to-door tradesmen, there are a number of ways in which homeowners are victimised. Residents may be pressured into paying for emergency repairs or routine maintenance which the tradesman believes is necessary on the home, but which can often lead to shoddy or even non-existent work being carried out, usually charged at extortionate rates. The type of individuals who usually engage in this kind of activity will be confident conmen, often lying about their membership of a trade organisation to convince the homeowner that the job required is genuine and that they’re authentic.
The figure collected by the charity – a total of 5,673 recorded between 2013 and 2014 – includes cases committed against all age groups, but it’s older people who make up the main victims of such crime. In fact, research recently carried out by Age UK found that 53% of people aged 65 and over believe they’ve been the target of some form of fraud.
Why elderly people are the most vulnerable
Whilst this is not to say that most over-65s fall victim to these ploys, older people are sadly more vulnerable due to a number of factors which become common in later life. As described by Age UK, the social isolation some experience can affect older people’s ability to deal with the advances of a fraudster. This may come as a result of bereavement, and this emotional vulnerability makes them an easier target. Financial pressures, coupled with the cognitive impairment that affects many in old age, are yet further reasons as to why the elderly are more likely to fall victim to fraud.
How elderly homeowners can stay safe
Door-to-door sales is still common practice in many industries, whether it’s charity collection or patio paving. The homeowner has no obligation to receive them at the door, but if they choose to, then these tips from Action Fraud should be kept in mind:
- Ask the tradesperson for identification before letting them into your house.
- Check their credentials, including a permanent business address and landline telephone number. With these, you can easily research the company online to see if they’re legitimate. Elderly homeowners who are not computer-literate should ask a friend or family member, or can contact Age UK’s free advice line on 0800 1692081.
- If you feel particularly suspicious, ask the tradesperson if you can take their photograph, providing you have a capable mobile phone to hand. If the tradesperson is legitimate, they shouldn’t mind being photographed.
Addressing emergency repairs in the home
While the previous tips are great for dealing with door-to-door selling, one of the biggest assurances that elderly homeowners can have in place is a Home Emergency Cover policy. Insurance policies like this will provide a set cover limit (usually around £1,000 per claim) to deal with emergency repairs around many areas of the home, such as:
- Boiler & heating
- Pipes, drains & toilets
- Home security
- Lost keys
- Pest infestations
- Emergency accommodation
The cover is especially useful for older and less able-bodied people who aren’t confident in carrying out jobs themselves. If the homeowner is not physically capable of putting things right in the event of an emergency, such as an internal flood or a roofing leak, then prompt assistance will be necessary. At £79 a year with no excess, Best Price Financial Services provides cover that’s both affordable and great quality.
The 24/7 emergency helpline provided by the policy means that there’ll always be someone at the other end of the phone to give the policyholder straightforward directions about managing risk and damage. This is even if the issue is one that requires routine maintenance and is not covered by the policy, such as a dripping tap. In such cases, helpline operators would be able to provide simple instructions about how to deal with the issue. This would help give elderly homeowners a clearer understanding of the issue they’re experiencing, therefore reducing their risk of being taken advantage of by an independent tradesperson. Visit Home Emergency Cover
Preventing ‘excess winter deaths’
It’s a fact that elderly people tend to feel the cold more — there were an estimated 36,300 ‘excess winter deaths’* of people aged 75 or over between 2014 and 2015. This is in stark comparison to the 7,700 people aged under 75, with the main cause for these deaths being respiratory problems.
Issues like these are exacerbated during cold weather, which is why a functioning heating and hot water system is vital. A good Home Emergency Cover policy will provide cover in the event of a boiler breakdown, alleviating the worry for elderly homeowners.
*‘Excess winter deaths’ constitute the difference between the number of deaths during the winter months (December to March) and the rest of the year.