In a study from a few years ago, older people were given phone blocking technology in order to stop them receiving constant phone calls from scammers who were seeking to defraud them. The aim of the study was to see how effective the technology was. The problem was that many of the participants disconnected the phone blocking technology, because they were so lonely that they would rather speak to a scammer than not speak to anyone at all.

2020 was the highest year on record for scams, and that more than half of the people who have fallen victim to a scam don’t report it. With the emergence of coronavirus many people are afraid, more isolated, and so more susceptible to being misled. Maybe you have received a phone call or an email inviting you to a coronavirus test, asking you to click the email link or provide your bank details? How do we know whether something is genuine or not?

As Christians it is often important that assume the best in one another, or give people the benefit of the doubt. But the Bible also calls us to be wise and discerning, as sadly there are people who are not trustworthy, and who are taking advantage of any fear or uncertainty we may have. So what can we do about it? 

  1. Never give anyone money or your bank details over the phone, via email or at the front door.
  2. If you receive an email and you are unsure about it, ask a friend for their advice - and don’t click the link in the email. 
  3. If you have been invited by email or over the phone to receive a coronavirus test or vaccine and you are unsure, check with your GP surgery.

Before the emergence of Covid-19, over 5 million older people said the TV or their pet was their closest form of contact, and 1.4 million older people said they were profoundly lonely. This has likely been exacerbated by the social distancing and associated isolation that has come with coronavirus.

These challenging times give us as Christians the opportunity to reach out to those around us, with practical support and love.

Is there an older person in your church or in your community who lives alone and who may be isolated or vulnerable? Could you call them and check in with them from time to time?

If we all have someone to chat to, that will mean we are less lonely, and it also means we can ask someone’s advice, rather than falling victim to a scam because we aren’t sure, or because we just want to chat to someone on the phone, even if they turn out to be a scammer.

The key to supporting someone who may be susceptible to scamming, is conversation. Who do we know who is living alone and may be lonely or isolated? Can we reach out in love and build a relationship, or at least just offer ourselves as a sounding board whenever someone is unsure about a phone call, text or email they have received? In doing so we can support each other, help reduce loneliness, and show those around us the love of Jesus in a practical everyday way.

Carl Knightly is the CEO of Faith in Later Life. Last year Faith in Later Life and the Church of England launched Daily Hope (0800 804 8044), a free phone line of hymns, prayers and reflections, which to date has received over 370,000 calls.

See here for more detailed guidance and information on scams, and what to do

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