Scams and Fraud
(Produced for Voices and Choices, February 2018)
Most (if not all) of us have received telephone calls, emails, letters or doorstep calls offering fantastic special deals, super expectations and fabulously cheap offers which are too good to be true. An estimated half a million older people in the UK have fallen victim to a scam. However, the real number could be much higher because many people may feel embarrassed to admit they’ve been conned. Although anyone can be the victim of a scam, older people may be more vulnerable because scams often target people who live alone, are at home during the day, have more savings and valuables and are willing to talk to fraudsters. This article covers the main aspects of each of the four main ways scammers operate:
- Cyber Crime scams (email, online accounts, online shopping etc)
- Telephone scams
- Postal scams
- Doorstep scams
The article gives examples of specific scams which have been employed in the last few years – often in the Chiltern area. There are also a number of useful links (either in the text of the article or in the Useful Links section near the end) which provide further information on scams and how to prevent falling for them. If you believe that you have been a victim of fraud you can report it online Action Fraud or by telephone 0300 123 2040.
* Cyber Crime Scams
Cyber crime is increasing at an alarming rate. Last year, 594 million people worldwide were victims of online crime. Cyber criminals are trying new tactics – and these are far more effective and vicious than ever. These go beyond simple viruses, using a combination of malware and social engineering to steal your private information. Here are some key tips to keep you safe:
- Choose a unique, smart, secure password for each account you have online. This link provides information on how to choose a secure password.
- Delete emails from senders you don’t know, and don’t click on attachments or links on suspicious-looking emails.
- On social media sites, if an offer sounds too good to be true, it just might be. Avoid clicking on posts that offer that “Free trip to Tahiti!” especially if they don’t come directly from a reputable, “official” trusted company page.
- Always monitor your financial accounts for unusual activity. If you see a charge that you didn’t make, report it immediately. Often cyber criminals will charge a small “test” amount before attempting to drain your bank account.
- Don’t put off updating your software. Yes, those update pop-ups are annoying, but those updates often contain important patches for dangerous security holes that cyber criminals could use to access your device.
- Use a secure backup solution to protect your files and backup regularly so criminals can’t hold them for ransom.
The little Book of Cyber Scams
This book is a general guide to many of the cyber scams currently operating in the UK. Thames Valley Police has worked with the Metropolitan Police Service to introduce the first edition of the Little Book of Cyber Scams. This follows the success of the original Little Book of Scams project. We recognise the constantly evolving online world and the challenges that our communities face in keeping themselves safe online. This booklet has been developed to inform businesses and residents in the Thames Valley about current risks and assist them in taking the necessary steps to protect themselves against cyber criminals.
To download the guide: Thames Valley Police
How To Shop Online Safely
Check the web address – Always check you’re on the correct website. Criminals can set up fake websites that have a similar design and web address to the genuine site.
Is it a secure connection? – Web pages you enter personal or financial details into should display a locked padlock sign and have a web address that starts with https. This means your connection to the website is secure.
Phishing – Don’t click on links or attachments within unsolicited emails. The number of online shopping related phishing emails increases significantly during any holiday period.
Bank transfers – 65% of Action Fraud reports during the 2016 Christmas period were linked to online auction sites. Don’t pay for goods or services by bank transfer unless you know and trust the person. Payments via bank transfer offer you no protection if you become a victim of fraud.
Examples of Cyber-Crime Scams
1. Amazon email scam could cost up to £750
Amazon customers have been warned they could lose hundreds of pounds if they fall for a “convincing” fake email scam. Action Fraud, the UK’s fraud and cyber-crime centre, said the spoofed emails from email@example.com claims recipients have made an order online and mimic an automatic customer email notification. Here’s what you should look out for: The Independent
2. Tradesman Payment Diversion
Fraudsters are emailing members of the public who are expecting to make a payment for property repairs. The fraudsters will purport to be a tradesman who has recently completed work at the property and use a similar email address to that of the genuine tradesman. They will ask for funds to be transferred via bank transfer. Once payment is made the victims of the scam soon realise they have been deceived when the genuine tradesman requests payment for their services.
- Always check the email address is exactly the same as previous correspondence with the genuine contact.
- For any request of payment via email verify the validity of the request with a phone call to the person who carried out the work.
- Check the email for spelling and grammar as these signs can indicate that the email is not genuine.
- Payments via bank transfer offer no financial protection; consider using alternative methods such as a credit card or PayPal which offer protection and an avenue for recompense.
3. New anti-virus activation scam
Reports suggest that fraudsters are exploiting victims who are unfamiliar with activating or renewing antivirus software. After buying brand new computers victims have reported being unable to activate their antivirus software subscription, which led them to following links to fake antivirus websites. After entering contact information, victims have been called by fraudsters who ask for payment to install the anti-virus. This method has also been used by fraudsters when victims have attempted to renew their antivirus subscription.
4. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) tax rebate scams
Victims have received phishing emails/texts purporting to be from HMRC about tax rebates. After either downloading a file attached to the emails or clicking on a link, devices have been infected with Dridex (a type of banking malware) or Locky ransomware (which locks devices and demands a ransom) from a hacked website.
5. SCAM ALERT – If you get this phone call from ‘Microsoft’, do NOT answer
Online crime is taking a step into the real world with a dangerous new technology-themed phone scam. According to a top security researcher, criminals are targeting victims all over the world with fake support calls pretending to be PC experts. Masquerading as employees from the likes of Microsoft, Google or Apple, the scammers are able to persuade victims into installing harmful malware onto their devices without getting their hands dirty – and then making off with your data.
So what do you need to know about this new threat? Express
6. Microsoft Tech-Support Scammers
Action Fraud has received the first reports of Tech-Support scammers claiming to be from Microsoft who are taking advantage of the global WannaCry ransomware attack. One victim fell for the scam after calling a ‘help’ number advertised on a pop up window. The window which wouldn’t close said the victim had been affected by WannaCry Ransomware. The victim granted the fraudsters remote access to their PC after being convinced there wasn’t sufficient anti-virus protection. The fraudsters then installed Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool, which is actually free and took £320 as payment. It is important to remember that Microsoft’s error and warning messages on your PC will never include a phone number. Additionally, Microsoft will never proactively reach out to you to provide unsolicited PC or technical support. Any communication they have with you must be initiated by you.
How to protect yourself:
- Don’t call numbers from pop-up messages.
- Never allow remote access to your computer.
- Always be wary of unsolicited calls. If you’re unsure of a caller’s identity, hang up.
- Never divulge passwords or pin numbers.
- Microsoft or someone on their behalf will never call you.
If you believe you have already been a victim:
- Get your computer checked for any additional programmes or software that may have been installed.
- Contact your bank to stop any further payments being taken.
7. British Gas Scam
British Gas warned customers to beware of phishing email asking for personal details to ‘unlock’ online account. It’s the latest in online scams trying to take advantage of people. The email asks the recipient to follow the links to update their data, warning that their details are out of date. But the email has been sent out to people who are not even customers of the energy and home services provider. The message reads: “In British Gas we take our customer’s security very seriously, we have strict security measures to protect your person information. This includes following our security procedures (like checking your identity timely), encrypting all the data on our websites and confirm the validity for your registered details”. Please note: the spelling and grammar errors are in the email. It then asks the recipients to follow a link that will allow them to update their details. Read the full article: The Sun
8. Seven ways to spot an online shopping scam
From the photo to the seller – clues that show you’re being targeted by online shopping scammers. A million people in the UK fell victim to online shopping scams last year, some of them several times, and this kind of crime is showing no signs of slowing. According to Gumtree, 93% of the population cannot tell an online scam from a bargain, so it’s worth getting to grips with the telltale signs you are about to fall prey to a scammer.
1. Too cheap
2. No pictures
3. Little information
4. Seller feedback
5. Lack of contact information
6. Request for contact outside the official system
7. Counterfeit sites
For full details: AOL.Money
9. Pension websites that carry anti-scam messaging could be fraudsters in disguise
The Pensions Regulator (TPR) is warning people about rogue pension websites that are carrying anti-scam messages to try to trick consumers into believing that they are legitimate businesses. These websites have been flagged to TPR because they are designed to look like legitimate pension scheme investments. Some of the reported websites suggest they are regulated by carrying warning messages designed to prevent people falling victim to fraud, such as making reference to the tax implications over accessing your pension before the age of 55 and the danger of cold-callers. They also carry Project Bloom campaign material without TPR’s consent. This is a task force set up to tackle pension scams, which is led by TPR. It includes the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), HM Treasury, the Financial Conduct Authority, HM Revenue & Customs, the Serious Fraud Office, City of London Police (Action Fraud) the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, The Pensions Advisory Service, and the National Crime Agency. Read more from Action Fraud
10. HMRC Email Scam
Email “Your Tax Return Refund Overdue. We noticed that your tax refund remains unpaid, if you are the rightful holder of the account and you must update your account! We also require you to create a Six Digit Phone Identification Code this will gives you access to you account over the phone any time you call Us. Your Identification Code can only be any 6 numbers you like.” Etc. Don’t click on the links. Flag the email as spam and then delete.
* Telephone Scams
Phone scams are on the rise with criminals targeting households across the UK to try and defraud people out of their money. Typically fraudsters try to cold call members of the public pretending to be from a trusted organisation – like your bank, the police, a utility provider or a computer company. While the criminals’ tactics can vary, the aim is the same. They want to get your personal or financial information, encourage you to hand over your cards or cash, or trick you into transferring money into accounts they control.
Fraudsters can sound extremely professional and will do all they can to convince you that their call is genuine. But there are some simple steps you can take to keep safe. It’s really important to be wary of any unsolicited phone calls, especially when they ask for your personal or financial details. Remember – your bank or the police will never:
- Ask you to transfer money to a new account for fraud reasons, even if they say it is in your name.
- Phone you to ask for your 4-digit card PIN or your online banking password, even by tapping them into the telephone keypad.
- Ask you to withdraw money to hand over to them for safe-keeping.
- Send someone to your home to collect your cash, PIN, payment card or cheque book if you are a victim of fraud.
- Ask you to purchase goods using your card and then hand them over for safe-keeping.
If you are given any of these instructions, it is a fraudulent approach. Hang up the phone, wait five minutes, then call your bank or card issuer on a number you trust – such as the one on their website or on the back of your bank card. Your bank will also never ask you to check the number showing on your phone’s display matches their registered phone number.
Criminals may already have some information about you, for example your name and address. So don’t assume that a call is genuine just because they have these details or because they claim to represent a legitimate organisation you use or a person that you know. Never feel pressurised into making a quick response; scammers will sometimes try to hurry you into taking action. A genuine organisation will always give you the time you need to make an informed decision. If you’re ever at all suspicious about a call, then just hang up the phone.
The Telephone Preference Service (TPS)
To help prevent nuisance calls and phone scams, register with the TPS – a register of numbers that can’t be called by marketeers and other sales firms – and you’ll be able to report scam calls made to you. This can also be done for your mobile phone – a free app to help mobile users avoid nuisance calls and log complaints about dodgy firms has been launched. The TPS Protect app allows you to rank incoming calls for ‘trust’ on a scale of one to five, which helps users decide whether or not to pick up. Every call that’s reported or blocked also helps determine the trust score for that number in future. The app is run by the Direct Marketing Association – the body behind the TPS – and is available for Apple and Android phones. Find out how to sign up here: Money Saving Expert
Examples of Telephone Scams
1. Nuisance Calls
Nuisance calls, which can be anything from unwanted sales calls to outright fraud, are difficult to avoid entirely but can be minimized by using the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), which is always free. However, one current scam involves calling people, telling them that their TPS enrollment has expired (it does not expire!) and asking for a credit card number. Telephones which are registered with the TPS should not receive unsolicited sales calls. You can register online at TPS Online. The website has lots of good information about sales calls, fraud, and scams. Go to the section entitled “Still Getting Unwanted Calls?” to find out more.
2. Courier phone calls
Thames Valley Police is calling on residents to help tackle courier fraud by taking ten minutes to talk to elderly friends and relatives. Courier fraudsters phone and trick victims into handing large sums of cash to a courier that arrives at their home. Often the fraudsters pretend to be from your bank or building society and convince you to tell them your card details over the phone. They arrange for a courier to pick up your card to take it away for evidence or to have it destroyed. In reality, the card is collected by the fraudsters to withdraw money from your account. Officers are asking family and friends to take ten minutes to talk through these top tips: for details BOPAG. Find out how to protect yourself Trading Standards Surrey.
3. Broadband Provider Scam
Please be aware of the scam where the caller states they are from the technical team of TALK TALK, SKY, VIRGIN, EE, 3, CLUB, O2, VODAPHONE, BT or any broadband provider. They ask you to check your router is flashing off and on and ask you to start your computer and enter a code they give you. Please do not do this as that code will hack into your information. This is a scam to get control of your computer and then retrieve your bank and card details from any site they wish. Please help us to spread the word that this is a scam. Do not operate your computer on anyone’s instructions. Please put the phone down and report them to action fraud. or call 101 to report to the Police. To sign up for Action Fraud alerts: Action Fraud
4. Voice Recognition scam
Police are warning people about a new phone scam that is sweeping the US and UK. It is thought that hackers are finding ways to access people’s bank, credit card, phone and utility accounts by simply obtaining recordings of their voices. The scam starts with the caller phoning and asking a simple question, such as: “Can you hear me?”. Many people would naturally answer ‘yes’ without thinking much of it, but this is enough information for the caller to gain access to your personal accounts. The recording of your voice could then be used as voice authorisation for bank or credit card confirmation, as the callers will also have your telephone number by this point – and it could be enough information to make fraudulent purchases, or access your finances. Authorities are warning anyone who receives a phone call of this nature to hang up immediately. Other questions that you may be asked are “Is this the homeowner?” or “Are you the bill payer?” to trick you into saying ‘yes’. Read the full article in Closer
5. Warning – Pre-Recorded Prank Calls
There has been a recent rise of prank calls within Thames Valley. The calls are pre-recorded, generated responses giving the impression that recipients are actually speaking directly to someone. The calls are not all the same. However one of the main scenarios has been described as an angry Scottish man claiming you are stealing his Wi-Fi. Sometimes there is a mobile phone number showing and other times the number is withheld. It appears that these calls are predominantly targeting elderly and young people and can cause alarm and distress to the call taker. We urge people to take the following advice:
- Anyone with particular concerns can contact us on our Police non-emergency number 101. Otherwise ignore the call.
- You can contact your local phone provider who may be able to put a block on these types of calls.
- If you are getting calls at night you could put your phone on night mode or switch it off.
6. Fraudsters use hold music in bid to convince unsuspecting banking customers
Organised crime groups are attempting to defraud members of the public by impersonating the customer’s bank and according to a convicted fraudster the methods used by them are evolving – fraudsters are now using background music, similar to that used by the bank, when the customer is put on hold. The fraudsters use this music as an attempt to convince the customer that the call is genuinely from the bank. Read more via Action Fraud
7. SCAM ALERT – If you get this phone call from ‘Microsoft’, do NOT answer
Online crime is taking a step into the real world with a dangerous new technology-themed phone scam. According to a top security researcher, criminals are targeting victims all over the world with fake support calls pretending to be PC experts. Masquerading as employees from the likes of Microsoft, Google or Apple, the scammers are able to persuade victims into installing harmful malware onto their devices without getting their hands dirty – and then making off with your data. So what do you need to know about this new threat? Read here: Express
8. Council tax rebate fraudsters at work
Fraudsters may be posing as local council officials or professionals and cold-calling customers stating that they are eligible for a general tax or council tax rebate, with a sharp increase in the number of reports relating to fake council tax refunds in the last few weeks. They’ve been reported to calling potential victims or use a range of other techniques, such as send text messages, to convince the intended victims that their tax rebate is legitimate, when in fact this may not be the case. The fraudsters will tell you how much tax you can claim back but emphasise that an advance fee payment is required in order to make the tax claim successful. For all the details see Action Fraud.
9. Investment scam fraudsters
Elderly people who own shares have been warned not to let investment fraudsters offering “too good to be true” deals trick them into parting with their cash. There has been a spate of attempts by swindlers from overseas companies cold-calling investors and trying to scam money from them. The con artists tend to target people over the age of 55 and use psychological games to trap unwitting victims. They will also use pressure tactics, like forcing share owners to act quick or make decisions on a “special deal”. For more details: Independent
10. HMRC Phone Scam
Pre-recorded messages saying in a slightly threatening way that you owe money to the tax office and either you, or your financial advisor, has to call the number provided, immediately.
Ignore the call and if you have a blocking service, block the number.
11. Smishing Fraud Alert
Smishing – the term used for SMS phishing – is an activity which enables criminals to steal victims’ money or identity, or both, as a result of a response to a text message. Smishing uses your mobile phone (either a smartphone or traditional non-internet connected handset) to manipulate innocent people into taking various actions which can lead to being defrauded.
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has received information that fraudsters are targeting victims via text message, purporting to be from their credit card provider, stating a transaction has been approved on their credit card. The text message further states to confirm if the transaction is genuine by replying ‘Y’ for Yes or ‘N’ for No. Through this method the fraudster would receive confirmation of the victim’s active telephone number and would be able to engage further by asking for the victim’s credit card details, CVV number (the three digits on the back of your bank card) and/or other personal information.
- Always check the validity of the text message by contacting your credit card provider through the number provided at the back of the card or on the credit card/bank statement.
- Beware of cold calls purporting to be from banks and/or credit card providers.
- If the phone call from the bank seems suspicious, hang up the phone and wait for 10 minutes before calling the bank back. Again, refer to the number at the back of the card or on the bank statement in order to contact your bank.
12. Police Banking Scam
The victim is contacted by the fraudster claiming they are are a Detective Inspector (DI) calling from The Police (recently this has been Scotland Yard). They will tell you that they are investigating your bank as they believe there is a member of staff there committing offences. They will ask you to go to the bank and withdraw a large amount of cash, adding that you MUST NOT tell anyone at the bank as they may be the inside source. You withdraw the money and when you are back home they call you again and ask that you read the serial number off from one of the bank notes, they then say that it is counterfeit and that they will send a courier to your address to collect the total amount you have withdrawn. Do not mention this to anyone as it is a Police investigation as your assistance in keeping this quiet is very important. A short while later a courier (maybe a taxi) will appear and the money is collected from you. The most important three things to remember are:
- Your bank and/or the police will never ask for your PIN.
- Your bank will never attend your home to deliver a replacement card or to collect cash.
- Your bank and/or the police will never collect your bank card.
Police advice is that if you receive such a call, end it immediately.
There are a number of variations to the scam, including:
- Fraudsters who pretend to be from the police cold-calling members of the public and telling them that their bank account has been compromised by criminals. The fraudster suggests that the person should transfer their bank balance into a ‘safe’ police bank account.
- Fraudsters pretending to be from the police attending people’s addresses and retrieving the person’s card and PIN.
- Fraudsters calling the victims and telling them to withdraw large amounts of money from their bank accounts, put it in an envelope, and hand this over to a courier who would call at their home. The fraudster tells the victim this is necessary as there are corrupt staff at the bank, and not to speak to anyone when they withdraw the money.
- Members of the public receiving letters on bank-headed paper informing them that their account has been the subject of a fraud. The letter advises them to transfer their funds to a ‘safe’ account and that an official will be in contact to provide them with a new card and PIN.
- Fraudsters contacting members of the public requesting them to cut their cards in half because their account has been compromised. They are then asked to post the cut card to an address where fraudsters simply tape the card together again and can use the details to commit fraud.
* Postal Scams
One of the ways that scammers commonly contact people is through the post. It’s important to note there is a difference between scam mail and legitimate mail sent by companies to advertise lawful services or the sale of genuine goods. Scam mail is sent for the sole intention of obtaining money through deception and/or fraud. However, as the techniques that scammers use get more sophisticated, it can be difficult to spot the difference between scam mail, junk mail and offers from legitimate companies. If you think you have received scam mail through the post, you can report it to Royal Mail (details here: Personal Customers Help Centre). You can also report it to Action Fraud or contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service for advice regarding whether a scheme is legal.
How can I protect myself from postal scams?
- Contact the Mailing Preference Service to have your name taken off direct mailing lists in the UK (this won’t cover mail that is unaddressed or from overseas)
- Put a ‘no junk mail’ sign on your door. You can make this sign yourself or buy one online.
- If you receive something you think may be a scam, don’t respond, as this can cause you to get more letters
Additionally, in 2016 Royal Mail launched a new initiative to protect consumers from scam mail. In the first 6 months, more than 700,000 scam items were stopped from reaching its customers. As part of its ongoing battle against the fraudsters, Royal Mail will begin proactively contacting, by Special Delivery, households it believes are receiving high volumes of scam mail. The latest anti-scam initiative will initially focus on most-impacted customers. It will be extended in due course. Royal Mail will block and impound scam mail at its major distribution centres before it reaches the customer’s letterbox. Legitimate business and personal mail will continue to be delivered to the customer in the usual way. For more details Trading Standards.
Here are common types of postal scams you should be aware of and what to do if you spot them:
- Lotteries and prize draws: You may receive a letter congratulating you on winning a cash prize. Usually you’ll be given a number to call, and if you do, you’ll be asked to pay a fee before the prize is ‘released’. But you won’t receive any prize, and you may be asked to pay further increasing fees or to call a premium rate number. Don’t respond to these letters. A genuine lottery won’t ever ask you to pay a fee to collect your winnings.
- Psychics and clairvoyants: Psychics and clairvoyants may send a letter claiming to have seen something in your future and asking for money to disclose what it is. Sometimes the so-called clairvoyants co-ordinate with lottery and prize scams to give the impression that they are ‘predicting’ a piece of ‘good luck’. Don’t respond – although the letter may look as if you’ve been specially chosen, this type of letter is sent out to millions and is a scam.
- Pyramid schemes: Pyramid schemes can take the form of chain letters or investment schemes that offer profits for little or no risk. You may be encouraged to send money to the person who has contacted you, either through the promise of great rewards, or by threats about what might happen if the chain is broken. Don’t join the scheme – if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Pyramid schemes often involve overpriced products of no real value. Disregard any threats. They’re meaningless and intended to scare you into responding.
- Hard luck stories: With these types of stories, the fraudster may claim to have lost all of their money in unfortunate circumstances or that they need to pay for an operation, and will ask you for money.These stories are fake. Don’t respond, even to say no, as this will encourage the fraudster to keep contacting you.
- Bogus job offers: These usually involve an offer of work to do at home if you first send a registration fee. You may even receive an offer of an interview over the telephone. Legitimate employment agencies will not charge you a registration fee.
- Advance fee fraud: You may receive a request to help transfer money out of another country in return for a substantial reward. Often the letter will appear to be from a Government official or lawyer. If you respond you’ll be asked to pay various fees or you may be asked for your bank details. In fact, there is no money to transfer and the fraudsters will use your details to try to steal the money in your account. Do not reply to the letter and never send your bank or personal details. Often these kinds of scam letters are badly written. If you see spelling mistakes and poor grammar, this is a good indication that it’s a scam.
- Unclaimed inheritance: You may receive a letter addressed to you, which tells you that someone has left you money in their will. These letters can refer to real law firms and even have seemingly genuine email addresses, postal addresses, or websites. Always check with the Solicitors Regulation Authority as to the authenticity of such letters. They regularly receive reports of such scams and post them on their website.
Other Examples of Letter Scams
1. Fake Bank Letters
Lloyds customers should be on the lookout for a new sophisticated fraud that involves fraudsters sending fake bank letters. The convincing letters being sent are a replica template from Lloyds and include their logo, address and signature from a customer service representative. The letter tells recipients that there have been some “unusual transactions” on their personal account and asks them to call a number highlighted in bold to confirm they are genuine. When victims call the number, an automated welcome message is played and the caller is asked to enter their card number, account number and sort code followed by their date of birth. Victims are then instructed to enter the first and last digit of their security number.The fraud was spotted by the Daily Telegraph which was alerted to it by a reader who had three identical letters sent to an office address. On separate occasions the Daily Telegraph ran some tests using fake details and were passed to fraudsters who claimed to be from a Lloyds contact centre. The bank has confirmed that the phone number and letters are fake. The letters are essentially a sophisticated phishing attempt and serve as a warning to consumers to question written correspondence from their banks. If you are ever suspicious about correspondence from your bank you should call the customer service number on the back of your card.
2. Misleading missed delivery cards posted through letterboxes
Residents are being warned about ‘something for you’ cards arriving through letterboxes designed to look like they have come from Royal Mail.
The cards which lack the Royal Mail logo look almost identical to the ‘something for you’ slips that are posted through homes when a delivery can’t be made. To organise a re-delivery the cards urge recipients to call a 0208 number, which is not registered to Royal Mail. After ringing the number the automated message asks for your details and consignment number. A Royal Mail spokesperson told the Express: “The Royal Mail security team is looking into this incident as a matter of urgency. Customers should check delivery cards very carefully to ensure they are genuine, and remain vigilant. Although this card is similar to one of our Something For You cards, the Royal Mail logo is crucially missing. Customers should also consider whether they are expecting a delivery from the company named on the card”. Whilst we have not received any reports at present, missed delivery cards have been around for a while and come in different formats.
* Doorstep Scams
A doorstep scam (or doorstep fraud) involves someone coming to your home and knocking on the door, with the aim of tricking you or your relative out of money. There can be added pressure with face-to-face interaction, which can sometimes be more challenging than dealing with phone scams, postal scams and online scams. There are lots of honest doorstep sellers, but there is a fine line between a scammer and an unscrupulous trader.
Scammers usually have the gift of the gab and will try to smooth talk you with a convincing story. Or they might be pushy and intimidating, trying to get you to sign a contract or buy something you don’t want. Their main aim is to trick you out of money or gain access to your home to steal valuables. Either way, the key is not to let them in and report them as soon as possible. Please keep in mind that if cold callers don’t get any sales in your area, they are less likely to return.
To protect yourself or a relative from doorstep scams:
- Be on your guard: always be suspicious of anyone turning up at the door uninvited – regardless of their story.
- Put up a sign: put a sign up in the window near your front door saying that uninvited callers are not welcome.
- Keep your home secure: don’t let anyone into your home. Keep your doors locked with the chain on. Ask to see callers’ ID cards and call the company to see if they are genuine. To be safe, look up the company number yourself rather than trust the number on their ID card. If you feel uncomfortable, or have any doubts, don’t let them in. It’s your home. Tell them you are not interested or that now is ‘not convenient’ and ask them to come back at a different time (when you can have a friend or relative with you).
- Set up a utilities password: you can set up a password with your gas and electricity providers so that you can be sure callers (such as meter readers) are genuine. Call your utility company to arrange this. To activate the service they might need to put you on their Priority Services Register. This gives access to extra services if you are of pensionable age, are registered disabled, have a hearing or visual impairment, or have long-term ill health.
- Nominate a neighbour: if you have a relative or friend who lives close by, ask if they’d mind being on standby, in case you get any suspicious callers on the doorstep. Before letting a stranger into your house, give your neighbour a call and ask them to pop round. If you don’t know anyone nearby, contact your local Neighbourhood Watch Scheme or Safer Neighbourhood Team to find out if they can help.
- Take a photo: if you’re suspicious, ask the caller if you can take their photo on your mobile phone. Then send it to a close friend or relative. If the caller is genuine, they probably won’t mind.
- Call the police: if a caller is really persistent and refuses to leave, you can call 999. If you are suspicious, but not in immediate danger, call 101 – the police non-emergency number.
Examples of Doorstep Scams
1. Nottingham Knockers – Trading Standards Alert
These are doorstep sellers (most typically selling household products). According to the police, the bag of household products is supplied by someone who employs them (originally a man from Nottingham – hence the name), but now they are recruited from anywhere. The lads are supplied with a full bag of household products (including the typical tea-towels!) and charged a minimal sum for the contents – it used to be £35. They can keep whatever they make above this amount. Usually they are deposited in an area from a transit van and given a list of streets to work. An hour or so later they are picked up and dropped off in another location. They often work from 9am to 9pm. They have been known to use the following tactics:
- They may say that they are on a “rehabilitation course” arranged by probation services or other organisations trying to find people work. This is not the case and often they are known criminals. Probation services do not run such schemes. They may show a card which claims to be a “Pedlars Licence” or work permit. This is not valid and they are breaking the law if they are using anything like this.
- They may also hand over a card saying they are deaf or dumb.
- They will knock on a door, offering cleaning items which they know are cheap and of very poor quality; the householder also knows they are rubbish but that is part of the scam. Many people will purchase items and pay them something, just to get rid of them. There have been cases of elderly residents handing over large sums as these lads can be very persistent and confrontational.
- The price for whatever has been purchased usually comes to a note – usually £10. The householder disappears to get this – this is when the scam begins, according to the police. When the note is handed over, the lad examines the condition and how long it took the person to get it. If it is crumpled, they accept it and move on. If it is crisp flat and new – they are much more interested and may engage the person in more conversation, to obtain details about them. As they leave they will smell the note. If it is slightly musty – this is an indication that there is more in the property. Those addresses are noted. The addresses of elderly / vulnerable / gullible people are all noted.
- These are handed to the employer and there is a small amount of cash handed over for each one. These addresses are then sold on. If there is a later break-in, the employer expects a further cut of the proceeds. These lists are purchased by all sorts of people including – tarmacers, tree workers, roofers, dodgy builders etc., and can be shared quite easily. Once on a list, your address could be sold on and on. Hence the repeat nature of these persistent callers.
2. Rogue traders
A trader will come to your home and say that you need work done. This might be new paving or a new driveway, but a common favourite is to say that you have a hole in your roof or your guttering is coming down – something that you can’t easily check yourself. They’ll say that it’s really urgent and if you don’t have it fixed, your house will fall down, the roof will leak or it will end up costing you lots of money. They’ll put pressure on you to have the work done now. The reality is it’s highly likely that they’ve made up the problem. They might pretend to fix it, or do a shoddy job. They’ll then charge you an extortionate amount for the ‘work’.
3. Hard-luck stories
A stranger (who might seem perfectly nice and friendly) will turn up on your doorstep pretending that they need to use the phone because, for example, their car has broken down, their pregnant girlfriend is ill, they need a glass of water, they’ve lost their dog in your garden. They’ll say anything to make you feel sorry for them and will take advantage of your good nature to help them. While you fetch the water or go to get the phone, they might pocket your valuables. Or they might work in pairs – while one distracts you looking for the ‘dog’ in the back garden, the other will gain access to your home.
4. Bogus officials
An official looking person with a uniform and ID badge, turns up on your doorstep. They might say they are there to read the gas meter or conduct a survey for the local council.
The reality: their ID could be fake. They want to get into your home, or trick you into divulging personal information that can be used for ID fraud.
You may find the following links useful. Please bear in mind we cannot be responsible for the content on these sites. Websites are constantly trimmed and edited, so any content on a third party site may disappear.
Which: Scams and older people
Independent Age has launched a new, free guide, called ‘Scamwise: Spotting, avoiding and reporting scams’, to help older people and their families recognise scams and know what to do if they spot one or if they think they have been the victim of a scam, as well as advice on how to protect themselves from being scammed. Order your free copy of ‘Scamwise’ by calling 0800 319 6789 or visit the Independent Age website to order online.
Take Five a national awareness campaign led by FFA UK (part of UK Finance), backed by Her Majesty’s Government: Takefive to stopfraud
Sources of Information
Voices & Choices website:
- Amazon email scam could cost up to £750
- Action Fraud Payment Diversion alert
- SCAM ALERT – If you get this phone call from ‘Microsoft’, do NOT answer
- BRITISH GAS SCAM
- Seven ways to spot an online shopping scam
- How To Shop Online Safely
- Nuisance Calls
- Be Scam Aware!
- Beware! Computer scam
- How to protect yourself from the latest phone scam
- Warning – Pre-Recorded Prank Calls
- Fraudsters use hold music in bid to convince unsuspecting banking customers
- Council tax rebate fraudsters at work
- Scam Watch!
- Fake Bank Letters
- Royal Mail launches new initiative to protect consumers from scam mail
- Misleading missed delivery cards posted through letterboxes
- Smishing Fraud Alert
- Nottingham Knockers – Trading Standards Alert
- Police Banking Scam
- New warning to elderly on ‘too good to be true’ scam fraudsters
- Would you fall for a scam?
Age UK: Postal scams
Which: Doorstep scams
Action Fraud: 4 scams to look out for
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