Worried about scammers?

Rebecca Finch
WY Trading Standards

Do you have an older member of the family you are caring for? Are you worried that they may lose money to a scammer?

The SAFER Project run from West Yorkshire Trading Standards is a Big Lottery funded initiative which aims to raise awareness of Scams and Doorstep Crime. Through fun and interactive workshops with community groups, older people 55+ are encouraged to equip themselves with the knowledge to protect themselves and others.

Unfortunately we know that older and vulnerable people are targeted, and we lose an estimated £9 billion each year in the UK to scams and fraud*. In a recent AgeUK review**, 53% of people over the age of 65 believed they had been targeted by fraudsters.

For carers it’s extremely worrying that people are targeted specifically because they are older or they have additional needs that could make them vulnerable. The SAFER Project regularly comes across people through workshops and events that say they are so fed up with nuisance calls that they have stopped answering the phone all together. This can cause problems for family, carers and staff from the medical profession to support people living out in the community. We want to work together so that people feel safer in their own homes, and help them to live independently for longer.

Here are common ways scammers can get in touch with us, and some tips on how to stay safe:

1. Phone – Nuisance calls are a growing problem. Data is sold between companies who then ring to sell items, gather personal information, or to set up home appointments for sales people. This data can fall into the hands of scammers, and it is very difficult to tell legitimate companies from scammers over the phone.

Our Advice: Don’t do business over the phone, or entertain anyone cold calling. Be careful when checking the ‘opt in, out out’ boxes when signing up to a contract or purchasing something. Sign up to the Telephone Preference Service for free online, or by calling 0845 070 0707. Consider speaking with your telephone provider and purchasing a call blocker to stop unwanted calls.

Watch out for cold calls offering to stop unwanted calls – it’s a scam!

2. Mail – Scam mail can come in many forms. Often they encourage you to order over priced products from catalogues with the promise of entry into a prize draw. Although the goods may arrive, the prize money you are promised never exists, and you are potentially giving card details away to scammers who might sell the information on to others with the intention to commit fraud. Charities may also sell information about their donors to each other, which leads to people receiving lots of requests for financial support.

Our Advice: Use UK high street stores, do not order from catalogues. Lots of these companies are based abroad and may use a UK ‘PO Box’ address which is just used for forwarding mail. Prize draws are often fake, stick to UK based lotteries. You should never have to pay upfront for funds to be released. Be wary if receiving mail about miracle cures and medical products, they are coming from abroad and have not been tested. In many cases they can be a waste of money, so see your doctor or health food shop. Do not be pressurised into donating more to charity.

Pick one or two that you would like to support each year and set a monthly/annual limit. You can write to companies and charities to request they remove your contact details from their system. Sign up to the Mail Preference Service for free online or by calling 0845 703 4599. 

3. Online – The internet is a great way to stay in touch with family and friends, or just to make day to day life a little easier. However, it does leave us open to the potential of being scammed. Protect yourself from computer viruses, and be aware that all may not be as it seems when visiting websites, receiving emails, or striking up a new relationship over the web.

Our Advice: Install anti-virus software, you can download this for free from Avast or AVG. Don’t click on links within emails, and be wary of any claiming your ‘security has been breached’ where they encourage you to re-enter your details through the link. This often takes you to a dummy site which may look a lot like the one you’d expect, but it captures your personal or bank details to be used fraudulently. Check for grammar and spelling mistakes in emails. Any companies you have had dealings with will quote your name or account reference, so watch out for ‘Dear customer’.

Using the internet can be a good way to meet people, but be aware there are scammers out there who earn their living by deceiving people. Never send money to someone you have not met in real life, and be cautious about online relationships.

4. Doorstep Crime – An unexpected knock at the door has the potential for turning sour. Rogue Traders can be out to make a quick buck by preying on older or vulnerable people. They will offer to carry out quick jobs such as roofing, driveway or gardening work which is often unnecessary in the first place, poor quality, and becomes more expensive as new issues are found. Bogus Callers might claim to be from a company to gain access to the property, or others might distract you whilst an accomplice sneaks in.

Our Advice: Don’t answer the door if you don’t recognise the caller, use a window, door chain or spy hole. The chain is to be used at the point of opening the door, and should be removed when you have dealt with the caller. Ensure that front and back doors, as well as windows, are locked at all times. Don’t be afraid to say no to cold callers! ID badges can be fake, wait for confirmation of home visits in writing, and arrange for someone to be in with you when they call. 


If you do come across a scam, we would encourage you to report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040, or your bank and the police if money has been lost.

We are delivering the project across West Yorkshire, and are looking for community groups to engage with us and learn more about how to spot scams, and how to stay safe at home. The workshops are free and every participant gets a toolkit of information and items to use around the home, so get in touch today!

We also have a Debt and Money Advice Worker as part of the SAFER Project who can help people with budgeting, debts, money management, and benefit claims. We are in a unique position as part of this project to visit people in their homes, meaning that we can reach more isolated people. It’s estimated that over £3 billion of benefits which older people are entitled to goes unclaimed each year in the UK***. If you’re not sure if you or your loved ones could be entitled to some extra financial support, or would like some help with another matter, let us know.

Contact SAFER:

To find out more about these issues, or to book a workshop please get in touch!

*National Fraud Authority June 2013 - Annual Fraud Indicator
**AgeUK Evidence Review April 2015 - Only the tip of the iceberg: Fraud against older people
***Daily Mail figures published online 19th Oct 2015

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