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Scams and how to stay safe

Scams and how to stay safe

Scams have been around for a long time but they are now becoming more sophisticated.

While anyone can be the victim of a scam, older people tend to be more vulnerable due to living alone, loneliness and health issues such as dementia. According to Age UK ‘Almost 5 million older people (65+) believe they have been targeted by scammers.’

What is a scam?

A scam is when someone tries to defraud another person out of money or goods.

Types of Scams

There are many types of scams to be aware of. Here are a few of the key ones.

Doorstep Scams

This is where someone comes to your door and tries to gain entry to your property or tries to get money from you. They can masquerade as a charity collector, trader, utility representative, delivery driver or just someone desperate for help.

Tips for protecting yourself from doorstep scammers

Put up a ‘No Cold Callers’ sign in your window. Many local councils offer these to residents.

Ask to see the person’s official identification. You can also verify the person’s identity by calling the company they say they work for or checking online. Never use a contact number they give you for verification.

Don’t sign up for anything on your doorstep. Take the time to think about it. If someone is offering to do work for you, get a 2nd quote.

Don’t let anyone into your house unless you know them or are expecting them.
Don’t accept deliveries you are not expecting.

Online scams

This is where someone gains information or money from you as a result of online activity. This can include bogus emails, social media scams, fake websites and computer viruses that allow someone to take over your computer.

Tips for protecting yourself from online scammers

Use different passwords on different accounts and ensure those passwords are strong. Don’t use obvious words or personal information to create your passwords.

Don’t open links or attachments on emails or social media messages unless you know it is from a legitimate source.

If an email asks you for personal information, money or appears suspicious, check if the sender has a legitimate email address. If you are still in doubt, call the company to confirm via their official website. Do not use the contact number in the email or message.

Keep your social media profiles private and don’t share personal information.
Check that you are using the official website for a business.
Use anti-virus software on your computer to stop unwanted viruses from infecting your computer.

Phone scams

This is where someone calls you up on your home phone or mobile to try to solicit money from you or gain access to personal information. The main phone scams include people purporting to be from your bank, HMRC, pension & investment companies or compensation businesses

Tips for protecting yourself from phone scammers

Register for free with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). This allows you to opt out of unsolicited phone calls.

Do not give out personal information, PIN numbers or passwords over the phone.

Your bank or HMRC will not call you out of the blue and ask you for personal information such as bank details or want to access your account. This is not a legitimate call so hang up.

If you are unsure if a caller is legitimate, hang up and call the company via a phone number listed on documentation you have or their official website.

Postal scams

This is where someone tries to defraud you via mail. Some of the most common postal scams include winning a lottery or prize, advance fee scams (where you transfer money first to get a reward), pyramid schemes, unclaimed inheritance and hard luck stories.

Tips for protecting yourself from postal scammers

Contact the Mailing Preference Service (MPS). This allows you to opt out of direct mailing lists in the UK.

If you are unsure if a letter is legitimate, call the company using their official phone number online or on past documentation.

Put up a ‘No Junk Mail’ sign in your window. You can buy these online or just make one.

General Tips

Here are some general tips that may also keep you safe from scammers.

If something sounds too good to be true then it probably is.

Listen to your intuition. If it doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t. Take some time to think and investigate further.

Don’t be pressured into doing anything on the spot. Ask for time to think about it then check the legitimacy through other channels or run it past family or friends.

Beware of businesses that only have a mobile phone as a contact or a PO Box.

What to do if you think you’ve been scammed

If you think you have been the victim of a scam then contact the police as well as Action Fraud online or via 0300 123 2040.

If it involves your bank account, credit card or an investment contact your bank or investment company.

Age UK also offer an advice line. Their number is 0800 169 656

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