Have you ever received a phone call, text message or seen an advert that seemed too good to be true?
Anyone can be a victim of a scam but older people are often the most targeted. In particular older people who are on their own can find themselves victims of doorstep or telephone scammers who can provide a welcome warm and friendly voice.
A lot of scams go un-reported which means the scale of the problem is probably a lot bigger than we think. Scams Awareness Month will take place this July with the theme being “Don’t be rushed, don’t be hushed”. This aims to stop people being rushed into making hasty decisions by scammers and to put an end to victims being hushed into silence if they start to question something.
The golden rule is if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
So what can you do to make sure you don’t fall victim to being scammed? Read more to find out.
Carrie Wilson from West Yorkshire Trading Standards tells us about the SAFER project (Scams and Fraud Education for Residents) – a community protection and empowerment programme, working with older adults to help protect them against rouge traders and scams. They are currently running a campaign called ‘Don’t Get Hung Up, Hang Up’ after being successful in a funding bid to West Yorkshire Police’s Crime Commissioner.
Carrie Wilson explains in more detail “The SAFER Project is a community protection and empowerment programme funded by the Big Lottery Fund and aimed at older vulnerable people. The project has worked with over 5000 older people in the last two years, carrying out workshops & events on topics such as scams & doorstep crime enabling them with the tools & knowledge they need to protect themselves against such occurrences. We also have our own Debt and Benefit advice worker who can help clients with any financial issues. All of the services from The SAFER Project are completely free. The ‘Don’t Get Hung Up, Hang Up’ campaign aims to deploy telephone call blocking devices to older residents who have been identified as being particularly vulnerable to scams and receive an exceptionally high volume of calls. The ‘Call Blocker’ allows a customer to effectively “zap” unwanted callers and prevent them from calling through again from the same number or blanket block certain types of calls that they do not wish to receive”.
Some of the workshops include:
- Scams & Fraud – Interactive session discussing different types of scams & fraud such as nuisance telephone calls, junk mail and many more, how to spot and avoid them and what to do/who to contact if things go wrong.
- Doorstep Crime – Interactive session using scenarios you may find yourself in on your doorstep and how to deal with them.
- Refresher session – Bingo style session recapping all the points from the previous two to ensure the main points have been remembered to keep people safe.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have recently warned of a “free pension review” scam whereby people are being contacted unexpectedly and encouraged to move their pension to ‘get better returns’ or to release cash sums. Most of the companies making these offers are not authorised by the FCA, yet often claim they are acting on their behalf. To make sure those who withdraw their pensions are not exploited by fraudsters and lured into risky and bogus investments schemes, SAFER provide the following advice:
- Avoid high risk ventures such as rare earth metals, overseas bio fuel plantations or foreign property investments – these could be scams.
- Be very wary of unsolicited approaches such as phone calls or text messages. Never give personal information like dates of birth, address details, bank account details or pin numbers to a cold caller.
- Treat offers of free pension reviews from companies that offer early access to your cash or wonderful investment schemes with great caution.
- Ignore any company that says it can release money before you are 55.
The main aim of a scam is to con people out of money and the financial loss that people can have as a result of these scams can be devastating. In some instances it can be their entire life savings.
Carrie tells us about a recent case study of victim who was involved in a Spanish lottery scam. “Alan was referred to WYTS via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline by a member of staff at his bank, due to concerns around his involvement with a Spanish Lottery suspected to be a scam. Officers visited Alan to discuss the mail with him, and to give advice and support in his home. Alan explained that he used to holiday in Malaga with his wife and had on occasion purchased lottery tickets using holiday money before they left the country, so in 2010 when the ‘Spanish Lottery’ sent him a letter congratulating him on his prize, it seemed plausible. Between 2010 and 2014 Alan received several letters from the Spanish Lottery, coupled with repeat phone calls to his mobile phone, requesting payments to release the funds from Spain. Alan has sent over £164,000.00“
SAFER advise that before you make any life-changing financial decisions, it is essential that you are aware of exactly who you are dealing with and where you are investing your money, as well as the risks involved in the investment.