Over 90 people joined us at open forum event on Monday 23rd April at The Wakes, Oakengates and received valuable information about how we can all protect ourselves and our money from scammers and fraudsters.
Millions of people of all ages are targeted every year by fraudsters, by post, telephone, online and even on their doorstep. Some people are particularly vulnerable, maybe because they are bereaved, lonely or lack the knowledge or understanding about what to look out for, what sets the alarm bells ringing. Often people feels pressurised and lack the confidence to say no. This can result in devastating consequences, financially and for health and wellbeing.
On Monday 23rd April we welcomed Valerie Graham, Development Manager, Citizens Advice Telford, who provided us with valuable information about how to keep ourselves safe from scams.
What is a scam?
A scam is a scheme to con people out of their money. Other names for a scam include fraud, con, swindle, cheat.
Each year millions of people in the UK fall prey to scammers with estimates by the National Audit Office putting the total cost to consumers at around £5 – 10 billion.
Valerie explained that there are four ways that scammers target us,
The impacts for victims are huge. Some people lose their life savings but also suffer emotional trauma, can become depressed, lose the confidence to live independently and can suffer long-term health problems as a result.
Different Types of Scams
A rising number of people are buying items online which are never delivered. People are lured-in with cut-price deals and fake recommendations. They can be targeted through sites including online marketplaces and social media. Citizens Advice found the average loss to be £1,100.
These are generally targeted at the 55+ age group and are sophisticated enough to tempt even the experienced investors. They are also called “boiler room” scams because they use high pressure sales to create a sense of urgency. They may offer shares or a range of investment “opportunities” including wine, overseas land investments, precious metals and gems. Citizens Advice found average losses reported to be £20,000.
Computer Software and Internet Provider Scams
Victims are cold called and told that there is a problem with their computer. They are talked through the log-on procedure so the fraudster can gain remote access to the computer, for which they charge “fees” and gain access to personal and financial information. Scammers pose as software companies such as Microsoft or internet providers like TalkTalk.
These usually start with an unsolicited telephone call or text advising that a bank fraud has been detected. The scam is completed when the caller attends the victim’s home or uses an innocent courier to collect their bank card. This method is sometimes also used with pension scams.
Advance Fee Scams
People are asked to send money in the post for a range of dodgy or non-existent goods and services – or to collect lottery “winnings”.
When someone tries to con you out of your pension money, it often starts by someone contacting you unexpectedly about:
- investment or other business opportunity that you’ve not spoken to them about before
- taking your pension money before you’re 55
- encouraging you to take out a large lump sum, or your whole pension pot in one go, and to letting them invest it for you
- asking you to transfer your money quickly, even sending documents to you by courier
- offering you an investment described as ‘unique’, ‘overseas’, ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘ethical’ or in a ‘new’ industry
You may be approached by someone claiming to be a pension provider, a financial adviser or from the government.
They may use words uses words as ‘pension liberation’, ‘loan’, ‘loophole’, ‘free pension review’ or ‘one-off investment’.
If anyone cold calls you claiming to be from the government asking for your personal or financial details, do not reveal them to the caller. Hang up if you need to. Never ever make a rush decision about your pension money.
Check if the person or company contacting you is on the Financial Services Register or call the Financial Conduct Authority on 0800 111 6768. If you call the person or company back, use the phone number listed on the Financial Services Register.
If you think you’ve been the victim of a pension scam, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use their online reporting tool.
Speak to The Pensions Advisory Service if you’ve been unexpectedly contacted by someone about your pension. Tel: 0800 011 3797, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
Most victims don’t report scams – surveys have found reporting levels as low as 5 per cent. That’s a huge number of scams we don’t know about, and therefore can’t help to prevent or to support those who have fallen victim. Reporting not only helps to inform the work of advice or enforcement agencies like Citizens Advice and Trading Standards; it also helps to prevent future scams.
Talk about scams
Stigma remains one of the biggest barriers to stopping these crimes. As a nation, we still don’t talk enough about scams. Talking about them can help reduce the stigma and help protect others from falling victim.
Suspect a Scam?
GET advice from Citizens Advice consumer service 03454 04 05 06. If it is a scam this will automatically be reported to Trading Standards.
REPORT scams and suspected scams to Action Fraud, tel 0300 123 2040, If debit cards, online banking or cheques are involved, contact the bank or credit card company.
TELL family, friends, neighbours so that they can avoid scams.
Top Tips to Avoid Scams
- If you haven’t bought a ticket – you can’t win it.
- You shouldn’t have to pay anything to get a prize.
- If you’re contacted out of the blue – be suspicious.
- Say no to cold-call investments and pensions reviews.
- Your bank will never phone you to ask for your PIN or your online banking password.
- No bank, or the Police, will send a courier to collect your bank card.
- Genuine computer firms do not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer.
Stop and think, don’t be rushed. You never have to make a decision on the spot.
Check the ID of someone calling at your door. Phone the company using numbers you locate from the phone book or online. Authentic callers will not mind waiting.
Ask someone you trust for a second opinion
Mine – your financial details and pin numbers are personal information, always keep them to yourself
Share – report the scam
What is a Loan Shark?
A loan shark is a person who offers loans at extremely high interest rates, typically under illegal conditions and who certainly does not hold relevant authorization from the financial regulator.
The Illegal Money Lending Teams in England and Wales investigate and prosecute illegal money lenders.
Who is Affected?
An estimated 200,000 UK households use loan sharks, 6% of households in most deprived areas. Victims most likely female, aged 30-40, on welfare benefits and living in social housing.
Loan Shark Trends
- No licence
- No paperwork – “you owe me this much”
- No receipts given for payments
- Violence, intimidation & blackmail if repayments are missed
- Loans to anyone (under 18’s included)
- Take cash cards and other securities
- Rarely advertise, find clients by word of mouth
- Repayments of at least twice the original amount, often with high charges for defaulting
How they Behave
- Build a client list through social networking – the pub, schools gates, food banks…
- Can be claiming benefits whilst making a lot of money
- Don’t pay any tax on their income
- Often involved in other criminality, and interest fuels capital for this
- Loan Sharks are getting smarter – no longer just a scrap of paper or exercise book but well-hidden memory sticks…
Unlicensed money-lending is not illegal. It is – you must have a Consumer Credit Licence from the OFT.
If you borrow from a loan shark you are breaking the law. Not true! It is the loan shark who is breaking the law.
You have to pay back what the loan shark says you owe. Not true! – a loan made by someone without a licence is unenforceable.
It’s a victimless crime. Not true! Threats, bullying, intimidation – loan sharks will use force. Victims can also get involved in petty crime to pay back their loan.
Loan Sharks are offering a reasonably priced service to people who need it. False! On average, a Loan Shark charges three times the cost as a legal money lender. Interest rates of between 8,000% and 131,000% have been uncovered.
How to Report Loan Sharks
Tel 0300 555 2222
We also welcomed PC Rob Hughes (Safer Neighbourhood Team) and PCSO Michelle Williams (Police Community Support Officer).
PC Hughes informed us that rates of anti-social behaviour are reducing in Telford and encouraged everyone to report all instances of low level crime to help maintain this reduction.
Details for local police teams can be found on the West Mercia Police website by typing in your postcode where they can be contacted directly, and telephone numbers are provided in addition to the address and opening hours of local stations. PCSO’s are available between the hours of 8am and 10pm. Please call 101 to report anything they are concerned about.
PC Hughes talked about scams, highlighting some of the ones that he is actively aware of, including:
- A ‘driveway scam’ where people physically remove bricks or damage peoples’ drives and then approach the homeowner offering to repair it for a large amount of money, often thousands of pounds.
- People posing as police officers to gain access to your home.
- Where people (usually two) approach homeowners claiming to be from the ‘water board’ and while one distracts the homeowner, the other goes into the property and steals belongings.
- Charity doorstep collectors who are often paid on commissions and can become aggressive.
- Door step sellers using the term ‘Offering an opportunity’.
Advice from PC HUghes regarding these scams;
- Do not allow people you do not know into your home.
- It is okay to leave people outside whilst you call to check their identity.
- Do not call using numbers provided by the person at the door.
- Always call using a number you trust, e.g. from the phone book or genuine website (West Mercia/Citizens Advice etc.) Keep a list of useful numbers ready to hand.
- Do not be intimidated into letting someone into your own.
- Do not feel as though you should confront anyone.
- Ring the police on 101 to report anyone you are suspicious of or anyone that is becoming aggressive.
- Display a ‘No Cold Callers Sign’ – It is harassment to ignore such a notice. If this is ignored call the police on 101.
- Always check police officers’ warrant cards, if they are not prepared to show you one, they are not genuine police officers. Ring 101 to establish the police officer’s identity.
- Use purse chains to prevent pickpocketing.
Members raised their concerns about:
- The time taken to get through to the police on the 101 number.
PC Hughes acknowledged that it can take time to get through but advised this was still the best option even if someone is waiting on the doorstep. If the person at the door is genuine they will be prepared to wait. Police attendance may not be immediate, but police will attend if required. All incidents should be reported via the 101 number.
- Aggressive begging in Oakengates.
PC Williams informed members that they were aware of such incidents in both Oakengates and Wellington and asked members to report such incidents as soon as possible for the police to be able to attend and deal with the beggar whilst they are still in the area. Reporting a few days/weeks later is far less effective.
Community Protection Notices can be issued and persistently ignoring theses will result in arrest. For this to be effective it is vitally important for these incidents to be reported.
The Crime Bureau page of West Mercia Police website offers advice and guidance on what you can do if you are unhappy with the service provided by the police.