Although many crimes are less common than they were scams are on the increase.
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.
Members of the public are being urged to be aware of mandate fraud and how to protect against it as part of a national campaign.
Mandate fraud is when a scammer contacts someone to request a change of direct debit, standing order or bank transfer mandate, by claiming to be an organisation a person makes regular payments to.
It is a growing problem nationwide, however, between April and September 2018 3,848 mandate fraud crimes in Cambridgeshire have been reported to Action Fraud, amounting to a financial loss of £750,000.
Nigel Sutton, Cambridgeshire police’s fraud and cyber security advisor, said: “An example of this type of fraud may be that you receive a letter in the post which appears to come from the company supplying a monthly magazine to you. It provides details of a new bank account and asks you to change the payment details to reflect this. The direct debit bank mandate is amended as instructed, however the following month your magazine does not arrive and when you contact the publisher you are told that because your payment was cancelled you no longer have a subscription for the magazine.
“Phishing emails are can be aimed at anyone in the hope they make the payment change requested. They come in the form of letters, emails, phone calls, texts or even social media posts and messages. Sometimes the criminal behind these types of scams will look at social media profiles and annual reports to do their homework against the recipient to make them appear more convincing.”
Advice on how to best protect yourself:
Don’t leave papers like bills lying around for others to look at and record details of standing orders and direct debits. Always verify changes to financial arrangements with the organisation directly using established contact details.
If you are concerned about the source of a telephone call, text message or email, call the company back using established contact details you have on file.
Check your bank statements carefully and report anything suspicious to your financial institution.
Any changes to a payment should be verified by at least a second person within the family or business, if in doubt ask a trusted friend or work colleague.
Read emails carefully, check for spelling and grammar, does the email use a generic salutation such as Dear Sir and not a name?
Be suspicious of any urgency or threat to make the payment changes.
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Against Scams Partnership by Charlotte Homent, Community Protection Manager, Cambridgeshire County Council
I work for Cambridgeshire County Council in the Strengthening Communities Service. Whilst we deliver scams prevention work on behalf of Trading Standards, we are very much about engaging with communities and helping them to build resilience from within. That’s why I helped to set up the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Against Scams Partnership (CAPASP) – to bring together all the right people to support communities to prevent scams and provide support to victims.
CAPASP brings together over 20 local partners, groups and organisations who are all passionate about raising awareness of the financial and emotional harm caused by scams, whilst also providing appropriate support to those who suffer the misfortune of falling victim.
CAPASP believes that prevention is better than cure, and as such, the Friends Against Scams initiative is very much at the heart of what we do. Friends Against Scams provides an excellent opportunity for all partners to spread the word about scams in a consistent and robust way. Our partners are committed to either face-to-face delivery of Friends Against Scams sessions as a SCAMchampion, or promoting the online learning which is helping us to reach more and more of our local citizens and organisations to invite them to join the growing legion of Friends Against Scams.
Many CAPASP partners have now made Friends Against Scams part of their staff mandatory training and part of the staff induction process, ensuring these Friends are better equipped for spotting the hallmarks of scams or victims of scams as they go about their work. We are also committed to registering all partners as Friends Against Scams organisations.
Perhaps one of the most effective ways of recruiting new Friends has been through our ‘5 Simple Steps’ guides and our communications with local communities. The ‘5 Simple Steps’ guides - one version for local councils and one version for community groups - identify some very easy, quick-win steps that local councils and community groups can take to build resilience within their communities to scams. This is very much focussed on Friends Against Scams! And whenever we provide communications to community connectors, articles for local newsletters etc. we highlight Friends Against Scams – in e-mail signatures and in the articles themselves. All simple stuff really, but it’s ensuring residents of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are more resilient to scams.