Watch out for coronavirus scams
While the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in UK is causing concern for older people and their families, many scammers see it as an opportunity to profit. Which? has launched a free email service revealing the latest scams, as fraudsters take advantage of the coronavirus outbreak.
What is a scam?
A scam is a dishonest scheme used by criminals to trick people out of their money. Your personal details (such as name, address, passwords, account numbers and date of birth) are high on scammers’ wish lists, as they provide a route to your cash. Stealing personal details is known as ID fraud. With this information, it’s possible for fraudsters to take money from your bank, go on a spending spree with your cards, open new accounts in your name or even make false insurance claims.
Scammers are convincing liars who use every trick in the book to make their scams sound plausible. They are ruthless and don’t care who they hurt along the way. If a scammer gets lucky – targeting the right person, in the right way, at the right time – anyone could fall victim to a scam.
Scammers might be individuals, but often they are organised gangs who work full time thinking up new and inventive ways to con innocent people out of their cash. They might approach potential targets by phone, post, online or even by visiting them at home.
How do I know if I’m being scammed?
There are some scam warning signs that are worth knowing about to look out for. Take a look at our video below, which highlights the main things that could indicate a potential scam.
Read more about this in our article on how to spot a scam.
What are the different types of scam?
The main objective of a scammer is to trick someone out of money. They might try to do this by:
- promising a gift, prize or ‘windfall’ of some kind, if you first part with a smaller amount of cash
- befriending you, then convincing you to part with cash to help them out of a tricky situation
- selling a product or service that you don’t need, or that never materialises
- tricking their way into your home so that they can steal cash or valuables
- impersonating a trusted organisation – such as your bank, utility company, the police or a government department – to trick you into divulging personal information.
Scammers might get in touch using a variety of different methods, which we cover in greater detail in separate articles:
Who might be targeted?
Almost 5 million people aged 65 and over in the UK believe they have been targeted by scammers (TNS Research Express polling for Age UK, June/July 2017). Of these people, 12% responded to the scam, which means around half a million older people may have fallen victim. In addition, the National Trading Standards Scams Team report that the average age of postal fraud victims in 2017 is 75 years.
Anyone can fall victim to a scam, but older people can be at greater risk because scammers tend to target people who:
- live alone
- are at home during the day
- have savings or valuables
- are more likely to talk to them, perhaps due to loneliness.
Older people often fit the bill. Some older people might be suffering from dementia, which could affect their decision-making process, or they might also feel lonely, which might make them more likely to talk to people.
It’s important to know about the types of scam and how to spot them (see below) as scammers can be very convincing. Many victims don’t realise that they are being tricked and believe that scams only happen to ‘other people’.
If you're the victim of a scam, report it: you may help others.
If you’re worried that a loved one could be vulnerable to scams, talk to them about common scams to look out for.
Here, we describe some of the most common phone scams and offer advice on how to deal with them.