It can be difficult spotting a scam, and fraudsters are often very cunning. Arm yourself with the best of all weapons – good information and timely advice. It could save you a great deal of money you can’t afford to lose.
Conmen, fraudsters, scammers or just plain criminals. Whatever we call them, the important thing to remember is that these are highly sophisticated and imaginitative people who make it their sole purpose to squeeze every available penny from their targets.
And they’re very good at it. Billions of pounds each year is lost to scams and fraudulent activity, taken from thousands and thousands of victims who come from all walks of life and income levels. Even more worrying is the fact that those over 55 are the favoured targets of scammers. For example, recent research revealed that the average age of a mail fraud victim is 74.
Unscrupulous criminals target older people because of their honest and trusting nature, but they also specialise in preying on those of us who are vulnerable and isolated. And they can be very persuasive, tempting or professional – depending on their chosen method.
HELP IS AT HAND
Scams are getting more and more sophisticated so it pays to know what to look out for. Scammers can contact you over the phone, by email, by text, or might even show up on your doorstep. In this article, we look at three common scams in more detail to help arm you with the best of all weapons – good information and timely advice.
Fraudulent activity can take many forms and is ever-changing. Fraudsters take advantage of timely situations like sporting events or new pension legislation and use it to their advantage. Staying up-to-date with the latest scams is a great way to not get caught out. Regular visits to the Action Fraud website for updates on the latest scams is a great place to start. Visit www.actionfraud.police.uk
Fraudsters will often try to trick people out of money by phoning up and pretending to be someone from their bank or the police.
They will tell the victim that their bank account is at risk from fraudulent activity and persuade them that they need to move or withdraw money urgently.
Sometimes the criminal stays on the line, so that when the victim puts the phone down and tries to contact their bank using the same phone, they don’t realise that they are still speaking to the fraudster.
Other victims are tricked into unwittingly revealing their PIN numbers or allow fake couriers, sent by the fraudsters to take their cards that they then deliver to the criminal.
WHAT TO DO
Trust no-one if you don’t know exactly who they are.
If anyone rings you saying they are from your bank or the police, don’t believe them. Instead, say that you want to call them back and put the phone down.
Use another phone (your mobile phone perhaps) and call the number that is found on the back of your bank card. If you use the same phone then the chances are the fraudster will still be on the line pretending to be from your bank. If you don’t have a second phone, wait five minutes and call a friend so you know the line is free.
Speak with your bank and report the fraud to them.
WHAT TO REMEMBER
Your bank will NEVER:
Phone to ask for your PIN or online banking password.
Ask you to move or transfer money for fraud reasons into a new account – even if the new account is in your name.
Send a courier to pick up your bank card.
Fraudsters will often use the thrill of a surprise win – using lottery wins, prize draws and sweepstakes – to hook victims.
Enticing looking mail will be sent to victims informing them that they have won a competition or a prize. In order to claim the prize they will ask you to pay upfront costs – but no prize exists and you will lose your cash.
You might be asked to prove your identity with a passport – which is then used by the crooks to steal your identity.
You could also be asked to provide your bank account details so that they can pay your winnings into it. This information is then used to clear out your account.
WHAT TO DO
Throw all unsolicited lottery, prize draw and sweepstake letters into the bin unopened. Never, ever respond. It can take only a single response for you to be inundated as your name and address will be included on what is known as a “Suckers’ List” and you may receive large amounts of scam mail on a daily basis.
Talk to someone you trust, such as a friend or family member, if you think you have received scam mail. Alternatively, call Age UK Islington on 020 7281 6018.
Contact the Mailing Preference Service to have your name taken off direct mailing lists in the UK. www.mpsonline.org.uk
WHAT TO REMEMBER
It is too good to be TRUE!
You cannot win money or a prize if you have not entered. You cannot be chosen at random if you do not have an entry.
Genuine lotteries will never ask you to pay a fee to collect your winnings.
Never share your personal or banking information with anyone.
Victims are contacted by phone and told that there is a problem with their computer. For a nominal fee the fraudster can fix it. The fraudsters often claim to be working with Microsoft who have identified that the computer has been infected with a virus and offer an update or fix.
The victims are talked through the logon steps in order for the fraudster to gain remote access to the computer. The victims will then often witness the mouse moving and changes being made to the display. They then pay a fee (anything between £100 and £300) and are told the problem has been resolved. Once the initial payment has been processed, additional larger payments are often debited from the victim’s account without their permission.
In addition, programs are often installed that allow the fraudsters unlimited access to your computer without your knowledge. They will then be able to view your information, such as personal data, as well as view online transactions so that your banking details can be stolen and used.
WHAT TO DO
If you receive an unsolicited call about your computer – hang up straight away. Microsoft or someone acting on their behalf will never call you.
If you would like someone to look at your computer, make sure you make the first contact. Find a reputable company. Never respond to unsolicited calls.
If you believe you may have already been a victim:
Get your computer checked immediately by a reputable company to see if there have been any additional programmes or software installed.
Contact your bank to stop any further payments being taken.
WHAT TO REMEMBER
If you receive an unsolicited call about your computer, it is a scam.
Reputable companies would never contact you in this way.
- Never reply to suspicious letters received in the post.
- If you receive a suspicious phone call, hang up the phone and under no circumstances, give out any personal details.
- Delete suspicious emails immediately – don’t reply and don’t click on strange links, or download any attachments.
- Never divulge any of your banking details, including PIN numbers, account number or passwords.
Remember: your bank, the police or Revenue & Customs will never ask for this information over the phone or by email. It is a scam.
- If someone shows up and you suspect they aren’t from the company they say they work for, ask to see their ID and never let them into your home.
- Keep your computer and mobile phone secure. Never let anyone gain access to them apart from an authorised repair technician you have contacted. Always use strong passwords (use numbers, symbols, capital letters, and lower case letters) and never reveal your password to anyone.
- If you’re looking to make an investment or if you’re looking for a new bank account or credit card, you should always be the first one to make contact.
VICTIMS OF FRAUD CAN FEEL SCARED, CONFUSED AND ALONE. PLEASE CALL AGE UK ISLINGTON IF YOU HAVE BEEN A VICTIM OF FRAUD. WE CAN HELP. 020 7281 6018