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Elderly increasingly targeted by fraud

Helsinki police warn that con artists are getting ever more brazen in their efforts defraud older people of money and valuables.

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Image: AOP

The elderly being conned out of their money and jewelry is nothing new. What is new, though, is how brazen criminals have become in exploiting the trust of older people.

Swindlers have expanded their range of fictitious professional guises beyond the well-known police imposters to include fake social workers, taxi drivers, bank officers, nurses, and repairmen.

Last week, police in eastern Uusimaa warned the public of frauds targeting the elderly. On Friday, Helsinki police issued a similar warning.

"There have been close to 20 cases. They are being investigated as a number of different crimes, including theft, attempted aggravated theft, fraud, payment fraud, minor fraud and attempted fraud," Helsinki Police Detective Chief Inspector Kari Martikainen told Yle.

These cons have netted perpetrators bank cards, cash, jewelry and bank account security codes.

Targeted at shopping centres

A new trend among these criminals is to use various pretexts to approach elderly people at shopping centres and to follow them home.

Once there, the swindler, often impersonating an official or professional some some sort, presents a plausible story to gain entrance and rifle through the senior's belongings.

One woman suspected of conning elderly people once used the ruse of offering free incontinence products. Another time, she claimed to need to check a victim's medical alert phone, and once requested money for a medical monitoring bracelet.

"They are well behaved the whole time, none of these elderly people have said they were pressured," relates Kari Martikainen.

According to Martikainen, the suspects have been fluent Finnish, or in some cases, Swedish speakers.

Police recently took two women into custody on suspicion of carrying out these kinds of scams. Both have confessed to some of the charges.

Martikainen has advice for people involved with care for the elderly about how to protect them from being exploited.

"We urge professionals who work with the elderly, as well as volunteers, to be alert to this and to tell seniors about the danger of getting conned. It's important to tell the elderly and their families in detail how, for example, to recognize a legitimate home care nurse," says Chief Inspector Martikainen.

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