Kingston, Paul; Bailey, Jan; Taylor, Louise
University of Chester, United Kingdom
A scam may be defined as: “An unsolicited contact involving a deceptive business practice where false promises are made to con individuals out of money.” In 2006, it was estimated that £3.5 billion was lost by UK consumers each year and that 48% of adults had been victims of ‘scams’ with almost four million UK residents being ‘scammed’ each year. Criminal gangs have developed means to identify and target individuals susceptible to scams. Older people have been identified as especially vulnerable to ‘scams’. For some socially isolated older people, contact with a ‘scammer’ may be the only social interaction they have; ‘scammers’ take advantage of loneliness by befriending such individuals. Conversely, some older people know they are being ‘scammed’ but continue the interaction with the ‘scammer’ to avoid isolation. Empirical analysis of this increasing phenomenon has thus far only utilised a ‘business studies’ and ‘technological focus’ (how ‘scammers’ target vulnerable individuals, and what mechanisms used)’. This empirical study approaches ‘scamming’ through a socio-gerontological lens, in an attempt to understand the vulnerabilities of ageing, and mechanisms to intervene with targeted individuals. Taking an ethno-geographic narrative approach researchers interviewed older people at risk of being ‘scammed’ to identify what (if any) benefits they gained from ‘scams’, how realisation they had been ‘scammed’ impacted on them and whether an intervention delivered by Trading Standards influenced their future behaviour.