We’d all like to think that we could spot a scam from a mile off, but scammers are getting more and more sophisticated in how they try to con you out of your money, and millions of people are now targeted by scammers each year.
Watch for the warning signs
Warning signs that something could be a scam include being contacted out of the blue by a company you’ve never heard of, being asked to pay money for something upfront, or being asked to share personal information – like your bank details or PIN number. And if you are offered something that seems too good to be true, then it probably is. But some scams can appear really genuine and be very hard to spot. Being aware of the different types of scam that are out there is one of the best ways to protect yourself.
Common Types of Scams
We explain the commons scam targeting the elderly, how you can spot and avoid them:
One of the more common scams is for someone to call you pretending to be from an organisation you are familiar with, like your bank, and giving you a reason why you need to give them some personal or financial details. Never share information like this until you are sure the call is genuine – call the organisation back yourself to check, but don’t use a number given to you by the caller as this could be fake. You might also want to wait a while before calling the organisation, as scammers can keep your phone line open even when it seems that they’ve hung up. You could then end up talking to the scammers again even though you have dialled the right number for the organisation they said they were from.
Scams asking for personal information are also common by email. It may look as if an email is from a well-known company, but often if you look closely enough, there will be something that gives away that it isn’t: it could be a typo in the subject line, or that the email address it has come from doesn’t look quite right. It’s also worth remembering that email accounts can be hacked, so if you get an email from someone you know asking for money, it may not be genuine. Never reply to hard luck stories from people you don’t know – it’ll be a scam.
A letter offering you the opportunity to invest in something with high returns may seem tempting, especially if you have successfully invested money in the past. But be aware that fraudsters may have been able to get hold of details of previous investments you’ve made, making it seem as if they are from a reputable investment company when they aren’t. Any post you get asking for money is likely to be a scam – don’t be lured in by the promise of something like a prize or inheritance money.
If someone comes to your door selling something or offering you a service, you shouldn’t feel pressured to agree to anything on the spot. How do you know that they will follow through with what they have promised, or that what they are offering is of good quality? Ask for time to consider and shop around. If you decide to go ahead with someone tidying up your gardening for you, or washing your windows, for example, don’t hand over any cash until the job has been done and you are happy with it.
Don’t panic, but be wary
Scammers can be very inventive, so it’s impossible to list all the different techniques they might use, but if you are contacted by someone unexpectedly, whoever they claim to be, it’s best to be cautious. Genuine people won’t mind you wanting to check out their credentials.
This article was written by Dawn McCarthy, Information Development Manager at Independent Age.
Independent Age, the older people’s charity has been working to raise awareness of scams, and has produced a free, handy guide called Scamwise, full of tips for spotting, avoiding and reporting scams. The charity has also launched an online quiz to raise awareness of common types of scam and test people’s scam-spotting skills. Give the quiz a try at www.independentage.org/scams-quiz