Watch out for scams!
Scams are becoming increasing common amongst the elderly. We're here to help educate you so you can keep on top of scams.
Fraudsters use scams to trick decent people out of their property, savings and cash.
Fraudsters can be extremely convincing. These ruthless criminals have developed many sophisticated ways to make you believe you can trust them. They will appear charming and helpful, offering you a wonderful service or product you simply cannot afford to be without! And, usually, at an amazingly reduced price!
It’s easy to think that this won’t happen to you, until... it does.
Anyone one of us can be conned, however, research shows that older people are especially at risk. Fraudsters are likely to see them as:
- Rich – Older people are the most likely demographic to own their own home, have a nest egg and have excellent credit
- Polite - Growing up in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, people were raised to be polite and to trust others especially those who appear to have authority. This can make it difficult for them to say ‘no’ to a seemingly nice person or hang up the phone on a telemarketing scam
- Isolated and unfamiliar with the cons of fraudsters – Older people are likely to be more isolated and to have less access to the internet and other sources of information about scams
- Less robust - If an older person reports the crime, they often make poor witnesses. Con artists count on the fact that older people will not be able to supply enough information to investigators
People with learning disabilities are also at higher risk because they can be easily influenced. They may not have the capacity to ask the right questions and are more likely to take what they are being told at face value.
Read on to find out more about how you can stay one step ahead and protect yourself and your loved ones on the Essex police website. Bluebird Care Epping & Harlow have put together a list of common scams below.
Common scams to watch out for and how to protect your loved ones:
Fraudsters telephone you or send you an email and pretend to be from your bank, building society or even the police or a fraud company. They will tell you there is a problem with your account which they are going to help you with. However, they need you to confirm your bank details first. They may con you into believing that they are really from your bank because they already have some information about you e.g. name, address and even account number. They will use this to try and get more details from you. Once they have this, they will try and steal money from your bank account.
The fraudster may invite you to ring them back as a security measure. Do not be fooled as this is all part of the scam. They will not hang up their phone. So you will still be connected to the criminal’s number when you think you are ringing your bank.
Banks, building societies, genuine fraud investigation agencies or the police, will never ask you to disclose your PIN number either by phone, letter or email.
- Do not provide your bank details to cold callers.
- Never disclose your PIN number to anybody, especially callers (either by telephone, a courier at your door or by email) who claim to be from your bank
- If you do receive a call from a person claiming to be from your bank, say you will ring them back. If possible, ring the bank using a different phone or wait at least 5 minutes to make sure that the line is clear (do not give your PIN details).
Fraudsters pose as bank staff and phone restaurants. They pretend that there is a fault with the restaurants credit card payment system. The fraudsters tell the restaurant that they can help them to resolve this so that the restaurant does not lose money. The restaurant is told to phone a line that is staffed by criminals and to put on any customer waiting to pay by card.
The customer is asked for their bank details to pass security before the transaction is put through. The fraudsters then try to transfer money from the customer’s bank account to their own.
- Never give your bank details over the phone to someone who has called you.
Healthcare equipment and insurance scams
Scam artists may promise ‘free’ medical equipment and then charge for it, or bill insurance for fake tests or services that were not performed.
Remember nothing is ever free!
- Never sign blank insurance claim forms or do business with door-to-door or telephone salespeople.
Buy now, pay later
Fraudsters will charge excessively high interest rates on products and services. The detail is often hidden in the small print.
- Check the interest rate and how much you will be expected to repay at the end. Make sure you only purchase from reputable companies and receive a copy of a signed written credit agreement. If you don’t understand the small print, ask.
Lucky winner and similar scams
These scams often involve free prizes, inexpensive vacations, the need to ‘act now’ or lose the deal, or give a credit card or bank account number over the phone or online.
Criminals contact you to say that you are the lucky winner of a competition and to claim your substantial cash prize all you have to do is;
- Ring a premium rate phone number which could send your telephone bills soaring; or
- Send some money to register etc, and /or
- Give your bank account details.
If you have genuinely won a prize then you should not have to send any money, give further personal information or ring a premium telephone number.
- If you don’t remember entering this competition then don’t reply. Some criminal groups have made extortionate amounts of money by these hoaxes
- Never buy over the phone from an unfamiliar company
- Always wait for written materials about any offer or charity cause. Ask someone you trust to look at the documents with you
- Take your time to make a decision, as no legitimate company will pressurize you to decide on the spot
Never share details of your bank accounts.
Bogus debt recovery or legal services
You may receive cold calls (often recorded messages) saying that a debt recovery agency, financial advisor or legal services can claim substantial amount of money for you. They will often pressurise you by saying that this is urgent. Or they may say that they are offering you financial protection.
- Do not respond to cold calls and never pass on any personal information.
Religious or spiritual scams
A person posing as a psychic or spiritual leader will say that for a sum of money they can:
- Protect you or your family from terrible occurrences; or
- Keep in contact with a loved one who has passed away
They may ask for regular payments to avoid the threat of various mishaps. This may sound unbelievable, but many people have been conned out of considerable sums of money.
- Talk to family or close friends before parting with any money. One person does not have the capacity to prevent acts of God or whatever claims they may make
- If you are concerned about a relative ask them if you can redirect their post to your address.
Scammers buy your information from the electoral register
The electoral register lists the names and addresses of everyone registered to vote. In most cases you are legally required to register or risk facing a fine. Yet councils sell your details on the open register to anyone. Scammers can use this information to target you.
- Contact your local Electoral Registry Office. Tell them that you do not want your details to appear on the open register. Remember to tell them again every year.
What else can I do to protect myself or a loved one form scams?
The Telephone Preference Service
You can stop unwanted marketing calls by registering with the Telephone Preference Service. This is quick and easy to do online and you can register as many telephone numbers you like.
Go to the Telephone Preference Service website to register and learn more.
After 28 days, telemarketers must not call you. If they do, they are breaking the law.
Think Jessica is a registered charity. Their website is an excellent source of information about scams. It explains that:
“Criminals worldwide are hunting down the most fragile members of our society by ‘working’ from mailing lists which categorise people as being elderly or vulnerable in some way…Those who respond end up having their details put on what criminals call ‘suckers lists’. They sell these lists to other scammers all over the world. This can result in victims being delivered 100+ scam letters a day and plagued by international phone calls. Millions of victims have a condition which Think Jessica is trying to get recognised as Jessica Scam Syndrome (JSS).”
People with JSS have been ‘brainwashed’ by criminals who are having an easy and assisted passage into their homes, minds and bank accounts.
The Think Jessica charity has kindly given their permission for us to reproduce an extract from their website on the key things to be aware of.
What to look out for?
Scammers will use every trick in the book to get you to part with your cash including:
- You have won a lottery, sweepstake or competition... BUT YOU HAVE TO SEND MONEY
- Money you have won is being held in a holding company... BUT YOU HAVE TO SEND MONEY
- Somebody has left you an inheritance... BUT YOU HAVE TO SEND MONEY
- A clairvoyant can stop bad luck or direct good luck towards you... BUT YOU HAVE TO SEND MONEY
- There is a ‘secret’ deal which will make you rich... BUT YOU HAVE TO SEND MONEY
Scammers send out catalogues selling food, pills, potions, jewellery, clothes, items for home and garden. They guarantee a prize to those who order and make it appear like 'you' are the only one to be getting this amazing offer. They never send the promised prize (though some do send ‘cheap’ goods to keep the victim on the ‘hook’) instead they send out more promises to get more orders!
For more information visit the Think Jessica website at: www.thinkjessica.com
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