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Scams: here’s how to protect yourself and loved ones

To mark this week’s over-70s' focus for Scams Awareness Month, we share tips on staying safe from fraudsters

It’s a sad reality that older people are often targeted by scammers. We’ve put together our top tips on spotting scams and what to do if you’re caught out.

Successful scammers are clever. To increase their chances of stealing personal information and money, they carefully consider who to target and how – and they’re always thinking up new ploys.

However, there are some main telltale signs that you should remember to help stay safe.

Keep scrolling to find out what these signs are, some key scamming methods to be wary of, what to do if you fall victim and what to do if you think your close relative or friend is being targeted.

Scams and older people – all of our scams guides on the Which? Elderly Care website.

Why are older people targeted?

The statistics on older people being targeted by scammers make for uneasy reading. For example:

Scammers tend to target people who live alone, are at home during the day, have savings or valuables and are more likely to talk to them. Older people are often more likely to fit this bill.

Some older people might also be living with dementia, which could affect their decision-making process.

How do I know if I’m being scammed?

Watch the video below for our top seven scam warning signs. In case you can’t watch the video, see the must-know list beneath.

  1. You’re contacted out of the blue.
  2. The deal sounds too good to be true.
  3. You’re asked for personal details.
  4. You’re asked to make an immediate decision.
  5. A letter or email that’s full of grammatical or spelling mistakes.
  6. You’re asked to keep something quiet from friends and family.
  7. No contact details are given to you, or – at best – just a mobile phone number or PO Box address.

Find out more on the Which? Elderly Care website by reading our guide on scams aimed at older people.

Types of scams to watch out for

Scammers use several different avenues to try to get their hands on your money. We’ve highlighted four key ones below. Click on the links to find out more on the Which? Elderly Care website, including more specific examples of what to look out for.

  • Phone scams A common trick is to impersonate a trusted organisation, such as your bank, via call or text message.
  • Postal scams You might receive a letter telling you that you’ve won a prize or that you’ve been carefully selected to take part in a money-making scheme.
  • Doorstep scams These take advantage of the added pressure of face-to-face interaction.
  • Online scams These can come through via email or social media.

As mentioned previously, scammers are often thinking up new scamming methods. For some of the most recent examples, take a look at ‘Stay clued up: eight biggest scams of 2018‘. It covers scams aimed at first-time buyers, those looking for love, and more.

What do I do if I’m caught out by a scam?

If you’re unfortunate enough to fall victim to a scam, it’s really important to report it. A scam is a criminal offence.

It’s estimated that only 5% of scams are reported. If you report a scam to Action Fraud, the authorities can take action and you could save others from falling victim to the same scam. You can contact Action Fraud either online or by calling 0300 123 2040.

Don’t feel embarrassed or guilty if you’re caught out. Remember that you are the victim and that the scammer is completely to blame. If you’re feeling upset because of it, talk to a close friend or relative, or your GP.

What do I do if I’m worried about a loved one being scammed?

If you think a relative or friend is vulnerable, talk to them about common scams and how to guard against them. Here are some warning signs that they may be being targeted already:

  • Lots of post lying around the house.
  • There’s evidence of large and unexplained cash withdrawals or cheque payments.
  • The person you’re worried about seems short of money when they shouldn’t be.
  • They get a lot of phone calls from strangers or companies.
  • They seem anxious or upset for no apparent reason.

If you think you or someone you know has already been scammed, use our advice to help take effective action. Look at all of our Consumer Rights scams guides.

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