Doorstep fraud is where fraudsters try to scam you after knocking on your door.
They might be pretending to collect money for charity, or offering to sell you overpriced or substandard products or services, such as home improvements. In the case of rogue traders, they will call uninvited and offer to do some work on your roof, driveway or garden.
They will often say the work is urgent and will normally ask for immediate payment, even offering to go to the bank with you. Suddenly you may find the price has increased, or they have disappeared without finishing, or even starting, the work.
Scammers commonly contact people through the post. Some victims, particularly older people, receive hundreds of scam letters a week. Common mail scams include lottery and prize draw scams, Nigerian letter scams, clairvoyant scams and catalogue scams.
Older people are especially vulnerable to mail scams because many still receive and pay their bills by post, shop using paper catalogues and correspond by letter. Not only that, the arrival of the day’s post can be a highlight for a lonely older person, giving them something to do.
Investment scams can originate online, over the phone or in the post, and usually involve offers of worthless, overpriced or non-existent shares in unregulated products such as wine, diamonds or land.
The Financial Conduct Authority warns that over-55s are at greatest risk of investment fraud. These are high-loss scams with the average loss being over £32,000, according to Action Fraud. Around three-quarters of victims of investment fraud are men with the average age of 65. Those with savings of more than £10,000 are the most likely to fall victim to scammers.
Average age of victims
Victims who are men
Pension liberation scams target older people by offering to convert pension benefits to cash benefits. Victims pay high fees and often face tax bills as a result of such schemes. These scams have become particularly relevant since the 2015 changes to pensions access made it possible for a proportion of pensions to be withdrawn in cash.
The Pensions Regulator has published a leaflet warning about the signs of pension scams and giving five top tips on how to protect yourself. You can download it here.
Scammers usually cold-call but contact can also come by email, post, word of mouth or even at a seminar or exhibition. Callers may pretend they aren’t cold-calling you by referring to a brochure or an email they sent you – that’s why it’s important you know how to spot the other warning signs.
They can use various different tactics at different stages of the process:
The pre-caller will get in touch to obtain your personal details, by inviting you to complete a survey or offering to send you something in the post.
The opener will strike up a relationship with you, appearing friendly and knowledgeable, and make you feel special.
The loader will draw you in, offering you an investment opportunity that appears great.
The closer will pressure you into parting with your money by warning that the offer won’t be available again and that time is running out.
The recovery room: After you’ve lost your money, they’ll sell your details to a recovery firm, or pose as a separate firm, offering to help you get your money back for an upfront fee.
Scammers will call you on the telephone to obtain your personal details or to persuade you to send them money for some sort of transaction. These scams are known as ‘vishing’ and are becoming more prevalent. Research by Citizens Advice suggests that scams experienced by people aged 65 and over are more likely to occur through phone calls, while younger people are more likely to experience online or email fraud.