Fraud and ‘scams’
Every year thousands of us fall victim to scams sent by post, email, text, the phone and internet. Carers, stressed, under pressure and often time-poor, can be especially prone to scams.
Carers and the elderly can be particularly vulnerable, victims of scams such as bogus lotteries, deceptive prize draws and sweepstakes, ‘guaranteed’ investments, fake psychics and ‘miracle’ health cures. And scams are getting increasingly sophisticated, for example, calls asking to log into your computer to ‘fix’ something, or calls supposedly from your bank or the police.
Research by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) shows that older victims are likely to lose nearly twice as much per scam as others. Victims are often socially isolated, over-trusting or have illnesses such as dementia and can be repeatedly targeted by the scammers. One carer reported being bombarded by unwanted phone calls for over a year, demanding payments for products she had not ordered.
There’s been a rise in scams during the pandemic, eg paying for products online, like masks, which never arrive. There’s also a rise in ‘phishing emails’. These ask are usually unexpected emails that ask you to click a link or open an attachment, and/or ask for personal data. For example, there’s a fake email pretending to be from HMRC currently circulating, saying you are eligible for a ‘government grant’.
Such emails can lead to the theft of personal information such as passwords and banking information. The advice is to think very carefully before any online transaction. If you are unsure, contact the organisation or company involved directly via its official channels.
You should also be aware of anyone offering or selling:
- virus testing kits – these are currently only available through the NHS
- vaccines or miracle cures
- overpriced or fake goods to protect yourself (masks etc)
- home cleaning services, sadly there have been examples of burglars gaining entry to properties this way
Test and trace scams
Fraudsters have tried to take advantage of the government’s ‘test and trace’ system, scamming people into disclosing private information to them. Please click on this government page to see how test and trace actually works.
Help from others during COVID – take care
It’s important to also be wary of shopping and medication collection services, make sure you are comfortable that the person/people offering help are genuine, if you’re not sure you can always check with Surrey County Councils Community Helpline (0300 200 1008).
How to protect yourself
Which have excellent guidance on spotting scams, and what to do.
Age UK has excellent advice and guidance.
The ‘friends against scams’ website also has some online resources, including an 8 minute video on scam prevention.
In general, follow these principles
- Don’t click on links and attachments in suspicious emails
- Check website links for strange typos, added numbers or things that don’t look right
- Think about how things have been shared, social media posts and WhatsApp chains can be written and doctored by anyone
- Remember that most major credit card providers insure online purchases so it can be a good idea to use one when shopping online
On the phone
- Ask your telecoms provider to help with call screening, or blocking. You can also go on the Telephone Preference Service to register not to receive unsolicited sales and marketing calls, although it may not stop overseas calls. Call 0345 070 0707.
At the door
- If someone claims to be from a charity, ask for ID
- Stop, think, and be sceptical. Did the communication (the call, letter or email) come out of the blue?
- NEVER give personal or financial information or PIN numbers to anyone, however plausible they might sound. This applies even if they claim to represent a business or organisation you have heard of or where the caller has your name. Genuine businesses or organisations will never telephone you and ask you for personal or financial information.
- Think about how much money you could lose responding to a potential scam; it’s a risk not worth taking.
- If you receive a call, letter or email that you suspect is bogus, speak to family or friends or seek advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service. To report a fraud call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
- Never respond to unsolicited calls or messages that ask for personal details
- Don’t be rushed into making a purchase decision – it’s okay to refuse or ignore requests. If you’re not sure, ask a friend or family member for advice before buying.
In all cases, if it looks or sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Surrey Trading Standards
Surrey Trading Standards can help. They can supply leaflets and sticker packs to protect carers from unwanted visitors and advise on phone blocking services to stop nuisance calls. For more information call 03454 04 05 06.
They also have very useful information on their website Surrey Trading Standards to help you look out for the various types of scams.