About 40% of calls received by older and vulnerable consumers are nuisance calls, A Trading Standards Institute (TSI) investigation has found.
Investigations by three Scottish trading standards authorities (Angus, East Dunbartonshire and East Renfrewshire) found that the impact of nuisance calls felt by elderly and vulnerable residents is severe.
Almost four in five (78%) nuisance calls are made between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday, when the general working population are not at home, but the elderly and vulnerable are most likely to be at home during the day.
This means that even though older and vulnerable people may not be specifically targeted, they receive a significantly greater amount of nuisance calls.
Combined with the fact that a ringing phone can cause a feeling of urgency, the TSI said a resident rushing to answer the phone is at risk of falling or tripping. Silent or nuisance calls can also lead to people being "drained of their ability to be self sufficient", as silent calls can create a fear of crime.
If this group of people do lose money to scammers, they can even be forced into care, the TSI warned.
Insidious and dangerous
Brian Smith, Trading Standards Institute's lead officer for Crime and Disorder, said: "The impact of nuisance calls can be devastating. For many it is just an annoyance but for the elderly and the vulnerable, it can be insidious and dangerous.
"Organised crime can easily turn cold calling into a tool to allow the deception of vulnerable and elderly people, sometimes even into handing over their life-savings.
"It is hoped that with a national consciousness of this type of problem combined with the successful call blocking technology revealed in these investigations, we could massively reduce the problem and ease the emotional and financial harm that some of the most vulnerable people in society face."