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It's Scams Month!
Whilst it is a month of awareness-raising, scams of course happen all year round – they can happen at any time to anyone.
A few we’ve had this year include
- A man who was told on the phone to invest in a surefire scheme – three maxed out credit cards later he owes £10,000 to each and faces bankruptcy. The caller, before shutting off contact, let him know the scheme had 'fallen through'.
- A client paid for an item she saw on Facebook, sending him money via BACS. She waited for the item but it never came.
- Someone else drove over 100 miles to collect a good deal car part he saw advertised on eBay. He paid in cash and when he got home the part was faulty. The seller refuses contact.
Some scams are deceptively simple, others have a lot of work put into them by criminal organisations. A recent one, vocalised by Action Fraud, was a circulating convincing email from ‘HMRC’ who stated they could pay their tax via iTunes gift cards. HMRC do not accept this form of payment, but the email looked fairly genuine. I myself get many (many) PayPal scam emails. I know they’re fake because:
- They have spelling errors
- I’m not addressed by name
- I rang PayPal who told me it was fake. Though this was after I clicked on one of the email’s links and my screen went bright red. Fortunately, my anti-malware software blocked it.
If you ever get an email from a company you are with, I recommend looking at the 3 bullet points above. Companies rarely ask for your bank details over the internet and will not request you download anything. Contact them from a trusted number if you’re unsure.
However, even if you’re not on the internet you can still be scammed. In actual fact, the average age of a scam victim is 75. Scammers pick on those isolated and with disabilities or a cognitive impairment like dementia. Often through cold-calls, they emotionally manipulate the victim and sound professional so that the victim trusts them. Once scammed, it has been known for older victims to stop answering the phone and door, pushing everyone away through distress and distrust. This is painful for family members.
Citizens Advice nationally is tackling this through working with Age UK and people who have regular contact with older people such as carers and social workers. If you have an elderly neighbour or relative, look out for them, and report any scams to Action Fraud - http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/.
Regarding cold-callers, we recommend everyone registers with the Telephone Preference Service. This will reduce many calls, and it may be worth contacting your phone provider to see what options they can provide – though they may cost.
In short, be wary of what sounds too good to be true, ask questions and don’t readily give out your personal information.
If you have any experience or thoughts, let us know on Facebook (search Citizens Advice Wyre Forest) or Twitter (@CABwyre).
Don’t get a scare, be scam aware!
Action Fraud - http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/ - 0300 123 2040
Consumer Line - 03454 04 05 06
Ask the Police - https://firstname.lastname@example.org