Scams: Let’s end the stigma and end the silence

Guest blogger Peter Kirwan, Communications Officer at Neighbourhood Watch Scotland, calls for an end to the stigma surrounding being a victim of scams.


“In the whole of the United Kingdom you are the one and only Big Winner of the Bank Cheque for 20,500.00”

“There’s over £1.4 million pounds at stake and you’re a guaranteed winner”

In the UK we lose billions every year to scams just like these with half the people living in Britain having been targeted at some point in their lives. Often scam mailers are persuasive and target the more vulnerable members of society who are added to a “suckers list” when they have responded to one scam. Once on this list, they are targeted by yet more scammers and may receive up to a hundred letters a day.

Today I want to ask you to help end the silence and the stigma around these scams.

Neighbourhood Watch Scotland

End the Silence

Many of these messages tell the reader they are in line for some huge windfall (through inheritance, lottery, a get-quick-rich scheme and so on) but to claim this they must pay a fee or give bank details. Crucially they often advise the person reading them to “tell no one,” claiming that other people would be jealous or try to steal from them.

Widow Ann McCorquodale was conned and then bullied into spending £40 a week on useless vitamins from a company called Vitamail. She was told that she was guaranteed a pay out of £10,000 but to participate in the prize draw she needed to make a purchase from them. There was, of course, no prize. Over the weeks that followed she received more letters assuring her it was on its way. In total she spent £6,000.

So how did this go on for three years?

A key part of how Vitamail got away with this is that they persuaded her not to discuss the letters with friends or family. This is typical in such cases.

“I didn’t tell a soul about what was going on, not even my family, it was my secret. I felt horribly guilty.”

We need to talk with our friends and family about these scams to uncover the cases where this is going on so that what happened to Ann doesn’t happen to others. We need to end the silence because it only helps the scammers.

Stop the Stigma

When having these conversations with friends and family, it’s important to make it clear that you will not be angry or think them foolish. A lot of people targeted by such scammers feel ashamed at being “taken in” by the first scam and worry about the reaction of friends and family. This increases their isolation which is exactly what the scammers want.

““I feel so stupid and ashamed that I could have been sucked in by this scam

So that people like Ann do not become repeatedly targeted in this way we need to change the climate in which scams are discussed. The reason people like Ann feel ashamed is simple: society openly shames people like them on a regular basis.

Wherever such scams are discussed there is always a vocal minority of people who cannot believe that they would ever fall for such schemes. In their minds, whoever does deserves their fate. This leads to comments like this (and far worse) which are all too common on social media.

Social Media

We need to stand up and challenge this message everywhere we encounter it.

Further information

Neighbourhood Watch Scotland has recently produced the latest edition of our Safer Communities Safer Scotland booklet. You can download a copy here

This contains, amongst other things, information on how to stay one step ahead of scammers who may try to contact you by phone, email, post or at your doorstep. If you’d like a print copy, these are free for registered Neighbourhood Watches. Registering a Neighbourhood Watch is also free. Go to our website, click join and follow the instructions.

For more information on spotting and stopping scams

To report fraud:

Follow Neighbourhood Watch Scotland: Please consider following Neighbourhood Watch Scotland on Facebook and Twitter

Neighbourhood Watch Scotland

Volunteers Week 2015

Volunteers Week is an annual event which recognises the contribution volunteers make to organisations across the UK.

We took the opportunity to celebrate our volunteers and the difference that they make to Age Scotland by holding a tea party at our Head Office in Edinburgh. Volunteers were treated to hot drinks and cake, including a special cake made by Team Member Jenny Whyte!

Volunteers Week CakesMargaret, Volunteer with Brian SloanOur Chief Executive Brian Sloan said a few words and presented those attending with their Certificates of Appreciation.

Volunteers with Brian Sloan

We thought we would share just some of the messages from across our organisation to our volunteers – we really couldn’t do with you!

Volunteer Thank you

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Untitled design (21)Silver Line Scotland

Bathgate staff

“We would like to say a massive THANK YOU to all of our 25 volunteers. Our volunteers range in age from 16 to 87. Everyone has an important role in the smooth running of our fabulous shop. Each volunteer has a different strength from merchandising, customer relations and our eldest volunteer Betty who can’t be beaten on the sale of tombola tickets! They have risen to the challenge of any changes made to the shop in recent months. They show great support for each other in and out of the shop environment, making friends for life due to their volunteer work here.

Our volunteers take great pride in their roles and this shows in the support we have from the community. They meet and greet the customers with enthusiasm and are an asset when dealing with over the door bags and asking about gift aid. In conclusion the shop can’t function without our wonderful volunteers, they are indispensable.” – Jane, Carol & Neil – Bathgate Shop

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If you would like to join Age Scotland as a volunteer, visit our website or contact Cat at volunteering@agescotland.org.uk

Thank you volunteers

Financial Resilience – May’s “Hot Tips”

Our free calendar “Hot Tips” aims to ensure everyone in Scotland knows about the organisations and services available to them, and provides information on how to make the most of later life.

Our topic for May is financial resilience and provides some simple tips for managing your money. Geraldine Day, our team member who focuses on Money Advice, introduces us to some of the recent changes to pension rules.


The rules around pensions have changed significantly over the last few years and will have a major impact both on how you save for retirement and access your money once you retire. New pension rules introduced in April 2015 have given people far more choice over what they can do with their pension pots.

These new rules only apply to people in defined contribution schemes (personal or workplace pensions where you build up your own pension pot). If you are in a defined benefit pension scheme (also known as an employer’s salary-related pension scheme such as a final salary or career average scheme) you will not be affected by the new rules.

You need to be 55 or over (or in very poor health) to access your pension pot.

There are several ways you can now use your pension pot. You can:

  • Buy a guaranteed income for life – an annuity.
  • Invest your pot in funds designed to provide you with a flexible retirement income – called drawdown (the income is not guaranteed for life).
  • Take small cash sums from your pot when you want them.
  • Take all your pot as cash in one go.
  • Mix the above options.

If you take cash, 25% of the withdrawal is tax-free (the other 75% is taxable). If you choose the annuity or drawdown options you can take up to 25% of the amount used for this option as tax-free cash. The rest is used to buy an annuity or goes into drawdown. You then pay tax on the income you get from these.

Any cash you take from your pension pot is added to the rest of your income for the year and you pay Income Tax on this in the usual way. If you take a large sum of cash you could push your income into a higher tax bracket and end up paying higher-rate or even additional-rate Income Tax on the lump sum. This increase in income may also mean you are no longer eligible for benefits you’re claiming.

Everyone aged 55 or over can have a free and impartial face-to-face or telephone guidance from Pension Wise. Pension Wise is a government service that helps you understand what you can do with your pension pot money. Before you decide what to do we recommend you make it your first port of call and then get financial advice.

Information included in this blog was provided by “Tax Help for Older People”. Visit their website for more information.

Download your 2015 Hot Tips Calendar here and get information and advice throughout the year. Here’s what you’ve thought about Hot Tips so far:

  • “Thank you for the calendar – useful & attractive”
  • “Invaluable, great help – used daily, all year”
  • “Brilliant information that I will pass onto family and friends”

Download yours today!

Irn-bru and an Iced Biscuit

Amy Telford, our Events and Community Fundraiser, shares her recent experience visiting some of our Member Groups and seeing firsthand the fantastic work they are doing in their local communities with help from Age Scotland.


I was recently lucky enough to meet with four ladies who form the committee for Age Scotland member group, The Carron Connect Partnership. They run SOFIA Project, organising social events in the local community for people over the age of 50.

I was bowled over not only by their commitment to helping those in later life, but also by their support of Age Scotland. Chair, Val Hunter, told me that they would love to do some 50/50 fundraising this year as they “…appreciate all of the support that Age Scotland has shown them and want to give something back.” This was so lovely to hear.

Ladies enjoying themselves at the tea dance

I was also delighted to attend one of their recent tea dances, which was well attended with members ranging from age 55 to 95. It was a real honour to be able to speak with some of the group members, finding out what they get out of coming along to these events. It was very apparent that without SOFIA Project, many of its members would feel lost. Member, Marilyn Kennedy told me, “I have new lease of life. We’ve made new friends and the girls that run it work hard.”

I was made to feel really welcome and was treated to a can of Irn-bru and an iced biscuit – I try to eat healthy most of the time but this was the perfect excuse to have two of my favourite things! I even had a dance with one of the members, although I can’t say I was any good at this. Live music was provided by singer, Katy Hart, who had a lovely voice and kept us all entertained.

As well as tea dances, the SOFIA project committee members also organise coffee mornings, bingo, day trips and special events, such as this year’s strawberry fair (where there will be a prize for the best bonnet and bunnet), a Scottish Evening and the annual Christmas party.

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I also recently visited a member group in Edinburgh, the social committee at sheltered housing development, Old Farm Court. Age Scotland’s Individual Giving Fundraiser, Alison Payne, accompanied me and we had a lovely visit. We met with three members of the committee who organise social events for residents. Jimmy, Diane and Ellen made us feel very welcome and we were amazed by the creativity of their fundraising. I think we actually learnt a thing or two!

Old Farm Court have offered to organise a Soup and a Sandwich event in aid of Age Scotland. It is really lovely that they want to give something back and we are incredibly grateful. I am so much looking forward to working with more of our member groups in the coming year and having met just a couple of groups since I started, I feel incredibly proud to work for such a fantastic charity.

Action on Hearing Loss Scotland – April’s “Hot Tips”

Our free calendar “Hot Tips” aims to ensure everyone in Scotland knows about the organisations and services available to them, and how to make the most of later life.

April sees us team up with Action on Hearing Loss Scotland to bring you information about taking care of your hearing. In this guest blog, Delia Henry, Director of Action on Hearing Loss Scotland, explains how having your hearing tested is a vital first step towards getting the support you need


Delia Henry Action on Hearing Loss Scotland

Delia Henry – Action on Hearing Loss Scotland

Recognising that you have hearing loss can be an uncomfortable truth which many don’t want to deal with and people often confide in me that they are having difficulty hearing but are not sure what to do.

71 per cent of people of over 70-year-olds have hearing loss, with signs of deafness such as turning up the television volume, thinking others are mumbling and needing to ask people to repeat themselves.

With funding from the Scottish Government, Action on Hearing Loss Scotland and RNIB Scotland produced resources to help you recognise whether you have hearing or sight loss. The information cards and videos also provide useful deaf awareness and communication tips.

People can wait up to 10 years to take action from the point of first experiencing hearing difficulties but we encourage you to get your hearing checked regularly. Asking your GP to refer you to an audiologist for a hearing test is a vital first step on your way to getting the support that you need.

Good quality digital hearing aids are free on the NHS in Scotland and you can also choose to buy hearing aids from private dispensers too. Action on Hearing Loss and Which? have produced the ‘Best hearing aid providers: How to get the best hearing aid’ guide to help you to make informed decisions about which hearing aids are best for your individual needs.

Although hearing aids will help you to hear your conversations with friends and family more clearly, it can take time to adjust to wearing them. Community-based support from our Hear to Help volunteers, who have hearing loss themselves, in Tayside, Greater Glasgow and Ayrshire & Arran can make a big difference – especially for people who are housebound or have mobility difficulties. Our website has details of our drop-in sessions and contacts for home visits.

Hear to Help volunteer talks through the equipment

Hear to Help volunteer talks through the equipment

Learning to lipread can be also be a big help as the ability to identify lip shapes, patterns and facial gestures can fill in the gaps of conversations you have misheard. Details about what happens during lipreading classes, the benefits they bring and those running in your area can be found on www.scotlipreading.org.uk

There is also equipment such as personal listeners, hearing loops, amplified phones and flashing or vibrating doorbells to help people with hearing loss in everyday life. Visit www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/shop or call 0141 341 5330 to find out about the latest products.

I hope that I have reassured you about the range of support that is available for you, if you are diagnosed with hearing loss but, if you need more information about Action on Hearing Loss Scotland’s services, please visit www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/Scotland or email: scotland@hearingloss.org.uk

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Download your 2015 Hot Tips Calendar here and get information and advice throughout the year. Here’s what you’ve thought about Hot Tips so far:

  • “Thank you for the calendar – useful & attractive”
  • “Invaluable, great help – used daily, all year”
  • “Brilliant information that I will pass onto family and friends”

Download yours today!

The relationship between sport and physical activity in later life

Greg McCracken, Policy Officer at Age Scotland recently attended ‘Learning from the Masters: The relationship between sport and physical activity in later life’ – a seminar hosted by Glasgow Caledonian University. Here he shares with us what we can learn from the research.


The benefits of sports in later life were made clear at a seminar hosted by Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) on Monday 13 April, where ‘Master’ athletes discussed the motivations and impacts of physical activity and some of the potential benefits for the wider population.

Funded by the Economic & Social Research Council and comprising academics from GCU, Brunel University and the Universities of Exeter and Loughborough, amongst others, the research group is examining the competing factors people must overcome to remain physically active as they grow older.

Masters sports are events that enable mature athletes to both practice their chosen discipline and participate in competitive games. Some prominent sports within the ‘masters’ category includes athletics, swimming and rugby.

Presentations considered participants’ motivations for competing, which ranged from a simple desire for victory, social benefits, and an understanding of the role which competitive sports can play throughout life, in terms of improving personal fitness levels.

Of course, it’s equally important that we don’t make physical activity for a mass audience exclusive; something that is only accessible if it’s in a formalised environment or which requires specialist equipment.  The benefits of physical activity are well known, as are the relative dangers of sedentary behaviours.

This, then, is the value of GCU’s research – if we can better understand what incentivises people to get active and stay active, we can develop and support programmes and facilities that genuinely meet people’s interests.

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Ultimately, it comes down to a matter of choice and ensuring that policy makers provide the widest variety of options to encourage and enable individuals to find the physical activity which works for them.  That means developing resources and infrastructure from a built environments that promotes active travel (walking and cycling), the availability of local gyms or swimming pools, right up to large scale tournaments and sporting events.

It’s with this in mind that Age Scotland is supporting the first Scottish Walking Football Festival on 7 June at Spartans Football Club in Edinburgh.

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The sport allows people to participate – at a walking pace – in a game in which many would previously have ruled themselves out.

So, if you’re interested in getting active again, have a look at some of the information available on our website here.

Footprints Connect – Using technology to enhance independence and well-being

Guest blogger David Valentine gives us an introduction to Footprints Connect – a social enterprise set up to develop a website and associated services to assist people in the 55+ age group to use and benefit from technology.


Some older adults find understanding and making use of new technology quite a challenge. The benefits and opportunities to be gained from computers and the internet may remain remote and even threatening. But many people in the over 55 age groups are meeting these challenges and going on to improve their well-being in many different ways (socially, emotionally and financially). For those still to access the benefits of the digital revolution, Footprints Connect, through its website and tutorials is helping older adults, in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, rise to the challenge.

Older people on a computer

Footprints Connect grew out of the Aberdeen Silver City Surfers (previous guest bloggers), when it was felt there was a need for an online presence that would give new learners a ‘place’ to use, practice, meet and benefit from their new digital skills.

Our website has been developed to offer two main things. Firstly, to support older adults get over the initial hurdles of accessing and learning to use new technology; and secondly, to provide them with a resource that begins to let them use and benefit from their new found skills.

2 home page footprintsconnect

Both of those aims come together in our Trusted Services Directory where browsers can find a wide and growing variety of services including computing tutors, who will provide group and individual tuition in digital skills. Our Trusted Providers are businesses and organisations that have gained the respect of their customers and they have promised high standards of service for our members.  Some may also offer free extras or reduced rates for their Footprints Connect customers. As a social enterprise, our core funding comes from publishing Trusted Providers links and adverts. One of our first trusted providers was PC Inspire.

3 pcinspire home page

We have used PC Inspire ourselves to run some of our Get It On classes and home tutoring. Here we have been trying to bring computer training to people who do not make their way to the SIlver City Surfers, including people living in Aberdeenshire.

You can see from our home page screenshot, above, the various sections we have on the website. Under ‘Hobbies & Activities’ we are building up a library of connections to local groups and events that might help people stay involved with favourite or new pastimes. This is also one of several ways the website can help older, and perhaps increasingly housebound, people to stay involved with the wider community.

So, along with the other tabs for News, Communities, Helplines (for free, independent advice including free community computing sessions), Viewpoints and our social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter , we are aiming to create a wide ranging resource that will engage and inspire older adults to use new technology to make the best of their later life.

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