With an ever-increasing use of the internet and scammers getting more and more sophisticated, cons are rarely out of the news – and it’s often the most vulnerable in society who fall victim.
Fraud costs people here in the UK billions every year. With our lives now dominated by an online environment where we do everything from banking to shopping on our connected devices, the unscrupulous have been more sophisticated in their approach.
It’s difficult to know whom to trust nowadays – the faceless phisher is as much a swindler as the rogue trader on our doorstep. Modern technology means scam letters can be mass-produced and made to look like personal letters or important documents, in the hope of tricking the recipient into sending cash, making money transfers or disclosing personal information such as bank details.
The important thing to remember, always, is that the more incredible something seems, the greater the chance of its being a con!
The most common types of fraud include:
Scammers call random numbers to locate an elderly person and trick them into giving their bank/credit card details or wiring money somewhere because:
• A stranded ‘friend’ or relative needs cash urgently.
• The police, bank or credit card company ‘need’ your bank details.
• You’re due a repayment from a mis-sold product and they’ll help – for a fee.
• You’ve received a prize (e.g. a holiday) or won a lottery and you must call a (costly) number to ‘claim’ your (worthless) prize.
• You must sell ‘underperforming’ shares and invest in their (fraudulent) schemes.
Internet and email fraud
• Fraudsters spread viruses or gain access to your details via email links or phishing scams. If you are ‘phished’ you receive an email, supposedly from your bank, requesting confirmation of your details and password. Once given they will empty your account.
• Never click on a link provided by an unknown sender. If you know the sender but the email subject and links look odd this person’s email account has probably been hacked. Delete it immediately and tell your friend. Be careful when buying goods online, too.
Lottery and prize draw scams
• Two of the most common scams are lottery and prize draw scams where victims are told they have won a large cash prize, but are asked to send some sort of fee to release it.
• No genuine lottery or competition would ask you to send money to claim a prize.
• Beware of people knocking on your door selling products you don’t need or ‘free’ home renovations. Nothing is ever free – once work is underway they’ll spot ‘underlying damage’ that needs repairing, at a hugely inflated price.
Steve Rock, Head of Kent’s Trading Standards, recently said: “Scams are an ongoing and increasing problem for our communities, causing somewhere between £5-£10 billion in consumer detriment each year.
“Anyone can be the victim of a scam yet it is the elderly and vulnerable who are systematically targeted by scammers.
“Scams come in many forms from fake websites, to phishing emails, from bogus prize draws and unwanted telephone sales, to doorstep rogue traders, all are designed to get as much money as possible into the criminals pockets, and, once they have identified a victim, keep doing it until the money runs out.”
• Always be wary of spam post and emails, people who visit unannounced and people who call saying they are police or bank staff.
• If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
• Never give out your security details. Information like your card pin, One Time Passcode (OTP), password or security numbers are personal to you and shouldn’t be shared with anyone – not even your bank.
• Never transfer money out of your account if asked to do so for ‘security’ reasons’. If you’re asked to do so, end the call immediately, give it five minutes and then call your bank or building society. After you’ve replaced the receiver the phone line can remain open for up to five minutes before the caller is automatically disconnected. During that time some scammers play a recording of the dialling tone.
• Never reply to emails asking for your personal or security information, as this could be a fraudster trying to get your confidential information.
• Banks and police never ask for pin numbers or send couriers to collect bank cards.
• Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline, call 03454 04 05 06.
• The Silver Line is the UK’s first free and confidential helpline for older people. It is available on 0800 4 70 80 90 every day and night of the year to offer lonely and vulnerable older people information, support and protection from abuse or neglect, or just a friendly chat with someone who is genuinely interested in what they have to say.
• Report fraud to
Action Fraud on
0300 123 2040.
• Report a loan
shark on 0300 555 2222.
• For information and support for victims and their families, visit
• Visit www.whocanyoutrust.org.uk/
• Visit www.ageuk.org.uk, the UK’s largest charity working with older people.
• trueCall blocked 98% of nuisance phone calls in tests carried out by Trading Standards. Visit www.truecall.co.uk or call 08000 336 330.
• Checkatrade is a free service giving you the background information on choosing a reliable and trusted tradesperson. Visit www.checkatrade.com or call 0333 0146 190.