Avoiding Scams


One of the most common causes of concern for any anyone with an elderly friend or relative is having them fall victim to a scam.

There are many different scams used in order to try to get vulnerable people to hand over money or personal details. It doesn’t stop there; sadly once you have been scammed you are likely to be added to a “suckers list.” These lists are widely circulated amongst scammer groups, who will then persistently mail or call the victim in order to get them to part with more and more money. The key to detecting a scam is that they will often try to convince you to hand over money or personal details, before you get to claim whatever it is they are offering.

Common scams include:

Postal Scams

These often involve a promised reward such as lottery or prize draw winnings. To claim the winnings you will usually have to call a phone line, which will either charge a premium rate or require a payment before you are able to claim your prize (which you won’t get).

Advance fee fraud

This is where you are asked to send money to someone, often in another country, in return for a larger sum of money. The Scammer will pretend to be a trustworthy official or wealthy businessman (or even royalty) in order to convince you that they are honest and dependable. Once they have introduced themselves they will give you excuses to explain their need for help with something, such as transferring money over to the UK. Common excuses are things like being unable to open a UK bank account or due to “regulations” needing a foreign business partner.

The next step, after the victim is convinced, is that in order to send this huge amount of money (often in the thousands or even millions) the victim must pay taxes or other fees which will arise. The money does not exist and the scammer will keep inventing new problems, which always cost you money, until your bank account is empty.

Hard luck tales

These are letters which ask you for money to help people get back on their feet after a tragedy or people claiming to be very poor and needing money for rent or an operation etc. The stories are fictional and are simply trying trick you into handing over money.

The best thing you can do is not reply to these letters or emails. We also suggest that you register with the Mailing Preference Service to be removed from UK postal marketing mail lists.

Doorstep Scams

The fake charity collector

These work by “pulling heart strings” and showing you upsetting images or stories, usually linked to a recent tragic event, to make you want to donate. However, none of this money will actually go to the people you would like to help. The fraudulent collectors will either use a fake name or use the name of a genuine charity. Calling the Charity Commission to confirm they are genuine is a good idea if you have any doubts. You can also check by visiting their website at charity-commission.gov.uk, where all the registered charities details are listed, as every charity has to be registered with the commission by law. If they are not able to show you ID or are persistent do not give them anything.

Reputable charity collectors also have to carry documents confirming that they are legitimate so you can ask to see those at any time. If you wish to donate to a charity and are unsure about the material or person you are speaking with, you can contact the charity directly, the charity commission will point you in the direction of the best place.

The workman

A very common doorstep scam where someone will arrive at your door and offer to do some gardening or building work. Once the work is (poorly) done they will demand a sum of money far in excess of what the work is worth. Other scammers will ask for a deposit and simply leave without doing any of the promised labour.

The best thing you can do is to ask them to leave, you can always ask people to come back when you have company.If you are looking to have work done, you can use websites such as checkatrade to help you find a reputable company.

Fake officials 

People pretending to be from your gas, electricity, or water supplies (among other things) who say that they need to gain access to your house, possibly to check the meter or investigate a hazard. Their intention is to steal objects from your house.

To protect yourself, call your utility company, and ask them if they have a password scheme, you can set up a password so that anyone from your supplier who is visiting your home will know it to prove their authenticity. Ask them for their ID card, they are required to carry one. We also advise you to keep your suppliers numbers close to hand so that you can call them to check the identity of the caller. Don’t use any number they give you, it could be fake. If you are concerned, ask them to come back when you have someone with you.

Phone scams
Computer service

These phone calls usually begin when you receive a call from someone who claims there is something wrong with your computer. These callers often pretend to be from well-known and trusted companies such as Microsoft or Google. They could tell you that your computer has a virus or that you have an illegal copy of Windows.

Technology companies do not make spontaneous phone calls to help you repair your computer. If you receive a phone call from such a company the best thing you can do is hang up, especially if they ask for your bank or credit card details. It is almost impossible for people not sitting at your computer to tell you if it has a virus or is broken, if you are concerned ask someone you trust or call your local computer repair shop.

Another tactic this kind of scammer often uses is to try to persuade you to either install a program (which they say will fix a problem) or they will try to convince you to give them online access to your computer . They will then charge you a fee and possibly even change your computer settings to allow them unlimited access to your computer.

Fake claim calls

Fake claims calls are when you receive a phone call saying that you are eligible to claim money. Common subjects are recent accidents or more recently PPI. These calls are almost always cold calls and the company on the other side most likely has no idea who you are or if you are eligible for anything.
The best solution is to hang up.

Fake authority call

This starts with a phone call from a person who pretends to be from your bank or another authority. They will tell you that there is a problem with your account or card. One they have convinced you of the problem they may suggest that you hang up and call the official line of whoever they are pretending to be. Most people don’t realise but phone lines can remain open even after you have hung up if they do not disconnect their end. This means that when you call the number you will actually end up speaking with the fraudster again. This time however they will ask you to give out personal details such as your address or bank information. Your bank will never ask you to disclose details of your account numbers or PIN numbers over the phone.

Useful Numbers
Charity Commission Phone: 0845 300 0218
Mail Preference Service: 03457 740 740

Useful websites
checkatrade.com – For plumbers, builders, electricians, landscapers etc.
thinkjessica.com – For more information on fraud prevention for the elderly.

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