How to spot if a loved one could be falling victim to a financial scam

By Vicky Shaw and TheBoldAge. Published 2020-04-07
BOLD-Living
Worried a relative or friend is being targeted by scammers? TheBoldAge seeks expert advice on tackling this tricky topic.

During this difficult period where we find ourselves in coronavirus lockdown, plenty of our elderly friends and relatives and not so older ones are having to rely more and more on the telephone and internet.

But, with fraudsters targeting people with cold calls, post and online, we take a look back at some advice mutual insurer Royal London gave Vicky Shaw. While people of all ages can be targeted, those who may be suffering from the routine of self-isolation and loneliness could be particularly vulnerable.

With families being increasingly dispersed and unable to visit due to the lockdown, its key, when you talk to loved ones and elderly friends on the phone, Facetime or Skype etc., that you look out for some of the telltale signs

So how can you spot signs that a loved one may have been targeted by scammers, and what can you do about it? Here are some tips from Royal London, who’ve produced a ‘Good with your Money’ guide on the issue…

What signs should you watch out for?

While many of us get unwanted junk mail from time to time, victims of mail scams can receive large quantities of letters from scammers, promising fake prizes, for example. Similarly, once a scam target’s details have been passed around criminals, they could also find themselves receiving lots of cold calls. It's always worth dropping this into conversations now and again.

If someone mentions a “great investment opportunity” they’ve been told about, this could also be a warning sign, as many scammers also reel their victims in with promises of “high returns”, often in unusual assets or based abroad. A general rule of thumb is that if something sounds like it is too good to be true then it usually is.

How can you start a conversation with someone about your suspicions that they may be being scammed?

This can be difficult, as they may feel they have chosen a great investment opportunity, or they may feel they have built up a good relationship with the scammer. They may also feel defensive or embarrassed, so you could be worried about an argument being triggered.

Royal London says it’s important the person you’re concerned about doesn’t feel they are being judged. One way of tackling the tricky subject could be to find a recent news story about someone being scammed as a way of starting a conversation about how people can protect themselves.

By keeping the conversation relatively light and neutral, you may find the loved one you’re concerned about starts to open up. You may not get the whole story from them at once, but try to keep the conversation flowing, rather than bombarding them with questions.

How can scams be reported?

Scams can be reported to Action Fraud (actionfraud.police.uk), the UK’s national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre, as well as Trading Standards.

Royal London suggests you could also encourage your loved one to tell their family or close friends what has happened, to help them get the emotional support they may need.

What else can be done?

Unwanted marketing information can be cut out by signing up to the Mailing Preference Service and the Telephone Preference Service. More information on reducing nuisance correspondence and reporting concerns can be found on the Information Commissioner’s Office website (ico.org.uk).

You can also help your loved one in contacting the bank, to stop any suspect transfers that may be about to go through and have a chat about how to protect their account further. If a fraudster has a lot of details about your loved one and the victim is worried about identity fraud, they may need to change information, such as passwords, to protect themselves, and check their statements for bank transfers they didn’t authorise.

  • For the Telephone Preference Service please see here
  • Follow the link here for the Mail Preference Service
  • Royal London's guide to avoiding scams can be found here
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