Scams make victims part with their money and personal details by intimidating them or promising cash, prizes, services and fictitious high returns on investment.
Whether a victim loses hundreds or thousands of pounds or just a small sum, it is often the emotional impact that is the most devastating. Family relationships have been known to break down where someone has been the victim of fraud and someone defrauded in their own home is 2.5 times more likely to either die or go into care within a year.
Scams can be perpetrated by post (e.g. bogus prize draws, lotteries and letters from clairvoyants), by internet (e.g. spoof e-mails and copycat websites), on the telephone (e.g. investment opportunities, calls from ‘your bank’) and on the door step (also known as rogue trading).
The Little Book of Big Scams gives lots of information on the distinct types of scams and how to protect yourself. See www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk for a downloadable version or contact Charlotte Homent on 01954 284635 if you would like a printed copy.
Some brief tips to protect yourself from scams:
If you haven’t been to Australia, for example, and bought a lottery ticket then you can’t have won the Australian lottery
If you had really won a huge cash prize you would not need to be charged a fee to claim it
Bogus clairvoyants and spiritual guides create the idea they know you by using your first name lots in their letters and typefaces that look like handwriting
If you receive any scam mail then return it to sender or send to Freepost Scam Mail.
Beware of e-mails purporting to be from your bank or building society asking you to click a link to verify your details. This is called phishing. Genuine e-mails from your bank will not ask for account details.
If you wish to make online purchases look for a padlock symbol and https in the address bar (the ‘s’ means the site is secure).
Beware copycat websites looking like they are an official government department and suchlike. Go to www.gov.uk to navigate to all genuine government websites.
Genuine bank staff or police officers will never ask you to divulge PINs/passwords or send a courier to collect bank cards or cash.
If you receive a phone call requesting any of the above information, hang up and then wait five minutes or use a different phone to contact the police or a friend or relative.
To check if a caller is a genuine police officer/PCSO, ask for their name, collar number and Police force then hang up and call 101 – the non-emergency police number- and ask to be put through to the officer.
Do not trust brokers who cold-call offering investment opportunities. If you wish to invest some of your savings contact an independent financial adviser.
Beware of callers to your door claiming to be from a utility company, Police, the Council and suchlike. Ask to see their ID and then check with the organisation they claim to be from that they are genuine (do not use the number they give you or that appears on the ID as this could be bogus). A genuine caller will not mind waiting for you to verify their identity.
Beware of cold callers to your door offering home improvement works. They may claim they are working locally to gain your trust or offer to do work because they have some materials left over from a job nearby so they can offer you a great deal.
Never give money up front for work. A genuine trader will not ask for this.
If you would like to employ a trades person always get three quotes and a detailed breakdown of what will be done. You can find Trading Standards approved traders at www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk or 03454 04 05 06
A rogue trader will take money for work that they either do not do or do to a very poor standard. Often they will demand more than the sum originally agreed and the price will keep escalating as they invent more problems that need to be fixed.
If a rogue trader is at your or a neighbour’s property dial 999. Otherwise use the non-emergency number 101 to report to it Police.
The key message for all the above is ‘if it sounds too good to be true it probably is’.
To report any type of scam please contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
You can report phishing to the bank whose brand/identity are being copied. Visit their website to find out the e-mail address to forward phishing e-mails.
For more information or advice contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline 03454 04 05 06.
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