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Don't let scammers ruin your retirement

Our expert guide explains how to protect yourself from common but clever scams on the phone, online and on the doorstep.

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Hobbies and interests
Posted 29 June 2022
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Don’t let scammers ruin your retirement

Scammers, unfortunately, are getting smarter – meaning even the cleverest of us can be taken in. But you can protect yourself. You just need to know what to look out for…

How to spot a scammer

A scammer may try to approach you in several ways: on your doorstep, by post, over the phone or online. They’ll often offer false services or investments and may try to pressure you into acting immediately. This guide outlines how to spot a few common scams.

How to spot a doorstep scammer

Doorstep criminals call at your home unannounced, often claiming to be from a utility company (telephone, gas, electric, waterboard etc) or with some other convincing ruse.

Do not let anyone in that you don’t know

  • If possible, use a door video camera to check who it is without opening the door.
  • Keep your front door locked and use the door chain.

Top tip: genuine people will be happy for you to check who they are.

Even if you are expecting a visit, ask the visitor for identification. If you’re still unsure, ask them to wait outside while you check with the company.

How to spot a scammer on the phone

Phone scams are a common way for criminals to con people out of money via a phone call or text. Fraudsters often pretend to be from a trusted source – your bank, the police, a utility provider or a computer company.

What do phone scammers want?

To get hold of your personal or financial information in order to defraud you. They can try to do this in lots of ways.

For example, someone may call claiming to be from your bank telling you there’s a problem with your card or account, and you must act quickly. They will often sound professional and try to convince you that your card has been cloned or your money is at risk.

They’ll want your bank details (account numbers, sort codes, PIN numbers and passwords) or for you to transfer money into their bank accounts ‘for safety’. They can be very persuasive and relentless.

Top tip: don’t give away personal/financial information. Your bank would never ask you to do this.

Watch out for ‘Number spoofing’

Sometimes the number you see on your phone will exactly match that of your bank, but, in fact, the fraudster has ‘forged’ the number.  When you query who they are, they will use the appearance of a real number to try and convince you they’re genuine.

Top tip: if you are at all concerned or suspicious - end the call.

  • Wait 10 mins after putting the phone down to make sure the call has disconnected
  • After 10 mins call your bank and explain the situation – they will be relieved you are protecting yourself and happy to help.

More common phone scams

  • The fraudster claims to be from e.g. Microsoft or your online provider to try to gain access to your computer.
  • The fraudster calls to say you’ve had poor service from a well-known company and they need your personal details to refund you.
  • The fraudster claims to be from HMRC saying there’s an issue with your tax refund or an unpaid tax bill. They may leave a message and ask you to call back.

Top tip: HMRC would never call you or ask for personal financial information like your bank account details.

Is it a scam or a cold call?

Cold calls are phone calls from companies trying to sell you something out of the blue. It is not illegal but can feel similar to a scam.  It can be annoying and even frightening. Do not be pressured into buying services from a cold caller and tell the caller if you want to be taken off their cold call list.

Top tip: if you’re feeling harassed, hang up!

How can I avoid cold calls?

If you’ve registered with the Telephone Preference Service or you’ve told a company directly you don’t wish to receive their phone calls, it is your legal right not to be contacted by cold callers. If you receive an unwanted telesales call you can complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Registering with the Telephone Preference Service is free but may not block scammers.

How to spot online scams

In the UK, millions of people lose money to scammers or unknowingly share personal information online each year. Online scams are increasingly sophisticated and many internet-savvy people are caught out. But you can avoid being taken in - if you know what to look for.

How to spot email scams

Scammers send bogus emails in the hope of enticing people to share their personal or financial details.

  • They may direct you to a fake website by tricking you into thinking you’ve won a prize.
  • Some spam or junk emails have a link or file attached. Opening them may harm your device.
  • Scam emails can convincingly appear to be from real organisations like the HMRC or a bank.

To spot a scam, look out for:

  • Poor spelling or grammar, or an unusual style of writing.
  • Requests for personal information, such as your username, password, or bank details - genuine organisations will never ask for your personal data.
  • Threats/requests to act quickly – e.g. a deal will expire or your account will be closed.

Top tip: delete suspicious emails straight away.

If you see a suspicious email, don’t reply, share personal details or open any links or attachments. If the email claims to be from an organisation, phone them directly using the number on their website (not in the email) and ask them about it.

Top tip: make sure your computer’s anti-virus and anti-spyware software is up to date.

What do I do if I think someone is trying to scam me?

Report your suspicions to the Information Commissioner’s Office online or by calling 0303 123 1113. It could help to protect other people.

What do I do if I've been a victim of a scam?

Remember you are not alone. Sadly it happens to many people but there is help out there. Report the scam to the Police and also contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

Your scam protection checklist

  • Never give your bank card or PIN to anyone.
  • Never give out personal or financial information (such as bank account details or passwords) to someone who has contacted you on the phone/via email or on your doorstep.
  • Never transfer money to people who call you or turn up on your doorstep - even if they claim to be from your bank/ building society or a credible organisation.
  • Don’t be afraid to hang up on a caller. If you feel harassed or intimidated, pressurised or suspicious, end the call. Even if it feels rude – they are in the wrong to make you feel concerned.
  • Never let anyone in that you do not know – a genuine person won’t mind your checking who they are and definitely won’t pressure you.
  • Ring the bank or organisation to check if a suspect caller, email or visitor is genuine. Find the number yourself - don’t use the one they provide. 
  • Take your time. Scammers will try to rush you into giving personal details by saying offers will end or that your bank account is at risk. If you feel pressurised it could be a scam.
  • Never send money or pay fees to claim prizes or lottery winnings.
  • Don’t call unfamiliar numbers or reply to unsolicited texts – you may be charged premium rates. Report spam texts by forwarding them for free to 7726.
  • Any doubts? Ask questions, check facts or seek a second opinion from someone you trust.
  • Finally, it’s a cliché but…if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

McCarthy Stone retirement homes – safe, secure and can save you money

Did you know that our new retirement properties for sale or rent come with the latest safety and security features? You’ll benefit from a 24-hour emergency call system, fire detection and door camera entry, so you can see who it is before answering the door. Plus there’s the reassurance of an onsite manager – who’s always happy to help if you have a concern.

That’s not all - our new retirement homes are designed with intelligent ergonomics and energy-efficiency built in to ensure they are a joy to live in - and save you money on energy bills too.

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