Coronavirus crisis creates new ways to scam older people
While ‘traditional’ crimes such as burglary seemed to be on the wane during the lockdown, there’s been no rest for the scammers. New attempts to relieve the population of their cash include:
- Fake NHS Test and Trace messages, asking people to call a premium rate number, make a purchase, provide social media log-ins, hand over financial information including PINs, download software, or visit any website that doesn’t belong to the NHS or UK government
- Courier fraud, where calls come from fraudsters impersonating bank officials or the police, suggesting there has been unauthorised use of the victim’s debit or credit card and an investigation is underway. The victim is asked to either hand over account details over the phone, or to a courier
- Door-to-door home testers. This is where an uninvited ‘official’ knocks on the door and says they’re there to do a virus test on the home. The residents are told to wait in another room while the testers come in and check for viruses
- Supermarket winners. My junk mail box is brimming over with emails telling me I’ve won prizes from most of the leading UK retailers. If your parent’s ISP or protective software isn’t weeding these out, it could be a problem
Meanwhile fraudsters are continuing to use tried and trusted methods of scamming, including:
- Declaring themselves to be from the HMRC and offering to help claims tax refunds
- Asking people to transfer money to new accounts as a form of protection
There are many more, sadly. MoneySavingExpert has a roundup of 20+ ways that fraudsters are attempting to scam individuals and business owners.
Fraud can happen to anyone, as the financial journalist Sam Barker can confirm. He was scammed three times in one day when fraudsters managed to convince banks to send him cards for new accounts set up in this name.
With all this in mind, it becomes ever harder to spot the warning signs of fraud and scams.
Being aware of the language that scammers use can flag up warnings in the early stages of a conversation:
- Do they seem to know you, and even though you don’t remember ever speaking to them before, you think it must be your memory letting you down?
- Are they trying to prove their credibility as a trusted organisation, such as your bank or the HMRC, but are actually quoting information about you that is publicly available – perhaps on a social media profile?
- Are they enticing us with promises of a better future, or using well-tested techniques to tap into your needs, such as reducing bills or making pensions go a little further?
To learn more about what’s happening today, Operation Signature has created has a YouTube video warning about the various ways that scammers can approach your older family and friends.
You can also sign up to your or your parent’s local fraud alert service from Action Fraud.
We know it’s hard for your parents to keep up with the devious ways that scammers will try to catch them. If they’re worried, they shouldn’t be embarrassed to let you know they might have been fooled. And if they’re not sure about an approach, they can always do what a friend’s mother does, and say she has to check with her daughter as she keeps all the mother’s cards at her house. Phone calls often end abruptly at that point.
Find out more:
- Protecting older people from tax scams
- Banking scams, refunds and protecting the vulnerable
- Scamming phone callers asking for card payments
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