How do most scams begin? Not with some clever and complicated sting from the likes of George Clooney and his mates in Ocean’s 11, but with a simple cold call. When finding a victim, the phone is a crook’s most valuable tool. And they then use it to hook you in with some clever trick.
Major new analysis of 20,000 scam cases from the past year has revealed that two in five of all scams are cold calls. And, tellingly, more than half of the scams seen by Citizens Advice targeted the over-55s.
The charity, with support from Trading Standards, is launching Scams Awareness Month today. It’s an important initiative, as becoming the victim of a scam is heartbreaking, and unscrupulous villains are increasingly aiming their dirty tricks at vulnerable people.
“Scams often prey on people’s most pressing needs,” warns Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice. “Bogus investments, fake debt remedies and fraudulent bank services can devastate people’s finances.”
She points out that scams thrive on silence, with con artists pressuring people into buying straight away and not telling anyone about the deal. But if people talk about scams and report them, it will stop the crooks getting away with it and help others avoid being caught out.
“A huge number of scams go unreported, leaving the path clear for scammers to devastate more lives,” says Leon Livermore, Trading Standards chief executive. “We urge citizens to report fraudsters.”
If you spot a scam or think you may have been scammed, call Citizens Advice on 03454 040506.
How can you spot one? If you’re contacted out of the blue on the phone with a “great” offer, it’s almost certainly a scam. If it’s a “one-time only” deal, it’s almost certainly a trick. Take callers’ details and check them out.
If they say they’re calling from a bank, be highly suspicious and call back on a different phone line. That’ll stop crooks who hang on the line to trick you into believing they’re genuine.