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Whittlesey and District Neighbourhood Watch

Whittlesey and District Neighbourhood Watch

Creating safer, stronger and active communities

Legal and Financial Scams

People need to be on their guard against financial and legal scams following a rise in cases reported to the Citizens Advice consumer service.

A total of 1200 financial and legal scams were reported to the consumer service in the year ending April 2018 - a 6% increase on the year before.

A range of investments scams were reported to the consumer service, including:

   - Cryptocurrency - Fake websites claim to offer cryptocurrency investments, like Bitcoin. Often, scammers will pretend that household names have endorsed the company to give it some legitimacy.

   - Binary options - Scammers pose as stockbrokers and get you to place bets on whether phoney shares will rise or fall within a certain date. They’ll promise big returns. You should check if they are on the FCA Register and not on the warning list of firms to avoid

   - Holiday timeshares - Scammers promise to buy your membership off you for an advanced fee.

   - Bogus solicitors - A scammer will intercept emails from a legitimate solicitor and pose as them. Scammers often strike when a property is being exchanged on and get the funds diverted to their bank account instead. Check if they are on the Solicitors Regulation Authority to see if they are genuine.

To help stop more people being fleeced by these types of scams, Citizens Advice is sharing tips on how to spot them:

  - Be suspicious if you’re contacted out of the blue, even if it’s from a name you recognise
  - Don’t be rushed – you never need to make a decision straight away
  - If it sounds too good to be true it probably is
  - Never send money to someone you have never met
  - Never give out your bank details unless you are certain you can trust the person contacting you
  - Walk away from job ads that ask for money in advance
  - Genuine computer firms do not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer
  - Suspect a scam? Hang up, wait five minutes to clear the line or use another phone to call
  - Persuasive sales patter? Just say: “No Thank You”
  - Don’t suffer in silence – speak out about scams

What is a Scam?

Scams are crimes where the perpetrator tries to swindle the victim out of money, or out of personal information with a view to stealing their money later. Scam is a slang term for personal fraud.  All scams are frauds.

It is estimated that around £10 billion is lost each year in the UK by victims of scams.

Age UK reports that 43% of older people – almost five million people aged 65 and over – believe they have been targeted by scammers. Those with dementia are at particular risk.

Scams can be committed over the phone, through the post, on the internet or face-to-face, often on the doorstep.

Because older people are more likely to live on their own, and are often lonely, they become targets for fraudsters. Age UK reports that in one study, it was found that 27% of single people responded to a scam, compared with less than a tenth of their married counterparts. In England, the number of people over 65 living on their own is expected to rise from 3.5 million in 2015 to just under five million by 2030, and the number of people with dementia is projected to rise from 850,000 now to 1.14 million by 2025.  This means that in future, significantly more older people could be at risk from being scammed.


Estimated sum lost each year to scams


People over 65 who have been targeted by scammers


Proportion of scams that are ever reported


For some people, their only form of social contact is with commercial organisations, legitimate or fraudulent.  They might receive telemarketing calls, emails or letters, or open the door to a scammer purporting to be a bona fide salesman or tradesman.  Sometimes strong relationships can develop between scammers and their elderly victims, if a high level of contact is maintained.  The average age of victims of mass-marketing postal fraud is 75.

And, once people realise they have been scammed, they often feel ashamed to have been duped and so will seldom report what has happened.  It is estimated that only 5% of these crimes are ever reported.

Once a person falls victim to one con artist, their personal details are often added to what is known as “suckers lists” and sold onto other criminals, so they are targeted again and again.

The impact can be devastating – people who have been defrauded in their own homes are two and a half times more likely to die or go into residential care within a year.

Scams - What to do

What should you do if you, or someone you know, has been scammed?

If you or someone you know has been the target of a scam, and fallen victim to it, you should report it to the police on 101 and to Action Fraud either through their online reporting tool or calling 0300 123 2040, as soon as possible.  The online form takes about 20 minutes to complete.

Action Fraud is the national online and financial fraud reporting database, which exists to build an accurate picture of frauds and scams, in order to help police and other agencies prevent more of these crimes taking place.

After reporting a scam, you’ll get a police crime reference number and the case will be referred to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau for analysis by the City of London Police. Not every report results in an investigation, but each helps build a clearer national picture of fraud.

You can also report phishing attempts where you have not lost any money or exposed your personal details.

However, Action Fraud cannot help you recover any money lost to fraud.

You can download more information using the links below:

Action Fraud Consumer Leaflet 2.72 MB 12/07/2018
Advance Fee Fraud Fact Sheet 783.33 KB 10/07/2018
Age Uk Avoiding Scams 303.19 KB 10/07/2018
Age UK Staying Safe 445.21 KB 10/07/2018
Computer Software Service Fraud 842.77 KB 10/07/2018
Doorstep Scams 368.33 KB 10/07/2018
Email Scams 490.03 KB 10/07/2018
Giving Safely Leaflet 676.08 KB 10/07/2018
Investment or Pension 508.19 KB 10/07/2018
Lottery and Prize Draw Scams 328.75 KB 10/07/2018
Pension Scams Booklet 171.35 KB 10/07/2018
Scams 638.98 KB 10/07/2018
Take Five Leaflet 2.93 MB 12/07/2018
The Little Book of Big Scams 2.01 MB 12/07/2018
The Little Book of Cyber Scams 2.02 MB 26/07/2018


Scams: Protecting Your Community

What can you do if you are worried that an elderly or vulnerable relative, friend or neighbour may be at risk of falling victim to scams?

As well as talking to elderly people about scams and how scammers operate, there are steps you can take that can help to reduce the opportunities for scammers to reach them, and to offer additional protection in the event that they are targeted by fraudsters. Here are some…

Sign them up to the Mailing Preference Service

If someone you know is being bombarded with large amounts of mail, it’s a good idea to get them signed up to the Mailing Preference Service (MPS).  This will have the effect of stopping UK organisations that are members of the Direct Marketing Association from sending them personally-addressed mail unless they have expressly given those companies permission to do so.

However, as most scammers are unlikely to be members of the DMA, it won’t stop scam mail getting through – but if the person knows they are registered with the MPS and ought not to be receiving any unsolicited letters or catalogues, this should raise suspicions of any that do arrive.

You can register online for the Mailing Preference Service at or by phoning 020 7291 3310.

WARNING: Beware of people calling you claiming to be from the Mailing Preference Service asking for payment to complete your registration – this is itself a scam!!

Sign them up to the Royal Mail opt-out service

You can also opt out of Royal Mail Door to Door. This stops all unaddressed mail being delivered to their home via Royal Mail deliveries. If they wish to opt out, they should send their name and address to Freepost, Royal Mail Cusotmer Services or email their name and address to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  An opt-out form will then be sent to their address, which they must complete and return. More details on this here.

Emerging Threats

New scams are appearing all the time.  The following are some of the new and emerging scams identified either by National Trading Standards or by Natwest, which could be used to target older people.

Energy saving scams

The end of the Green Deal has coincided with increasing numbers of cases involving energy-related scams dealt with Trading Standards officers – many focused around nuisance calls.

Criminals selling items on social media

The trend is for an increasing variety of what can be bought through Facebook, Gumtree and other sites – for example there’s been a spate of ‘clocked cars’ (where a car’s mileage is adjusted downwards to add value) being sold in this way.

Telephone preference scams

A growing number of companies are selling ‘call blocking’ devices that are ineffective and lead to unexpected charges. Known as telephone preference scams, the scammers cold-call people and claim to be from the Telephone Preference Service, and then charge them for registration or for useless call blocking devices.

Subscription traps

Consumers or businesses are enticed to sign up to a free trial of a product or to pay a small fee to access an offer. But the offer is – intentionally or not on the part of the company – misleading and so without realising it, the victim is then trapped into making costly monthly payments without their informed consent, which can be difficult to stop.

Social media spying

People might not realise how much information they are giving away on social networking sites, but to a fraudster the posts can be very helpful in setting up a scam.

Malicious software on smartphones

Natwest expects that malware or malicious software threats will grow among mobile devices.

Bogus Brexit investments

Consumers should be wary of fake investment opportunities. For example, fraudsters may email customers, warning that Brexit will affect their savings, and that they urgently need to move them into a seemingly plausible, but actually fake, investment product.