As Citizens Advice Scams Awareness Month is running throughout July 2017, West Yorkshire Trading Standards has teamed up to urge residents to spread the word about scams and expose the tactics of fraudsters in order to protect others #scamaware.
Each week throughout July Scams Awareness Month will raise awareness around different types of scams. This week’s (17th – 23rd July) focus is around telephone scams, and comes on the back of a recent article in which BT stated that the UK receives 30 million nuisance calls a week! It has also recently been reported that the names and addresses of nearly 300,000 people nationally are on lists which are being sold between criminals to use as targets for scams. Over the phone is just one way to get to people – befriending those whose telephone is a lifeline and only connection with the outside world, or playing on hopes and fears of others:
Common and current telephone scams
- Arrest and Prosecution scam, also known as the iTunes scam – scammers call (sometimes after sending texts or emails) claiming to be from the HMRC, DWP or a loan company and threaten arrest and prosecution if outstanding fees or debt is not paid immediately. After playing on fears they suggest payment by iTunes vouchers as these can be purchased quickly from local shops. The scammers then ask for the voucher codes which they sell on.
- Mass Marketing Mail scams – scammers run Prize Draws that require payment of a transfer fee for supposed winnings, or Catalogues that have over-priced goods that need to be purchased to take part in a prize draw. To claim or to order you are required to ring premium rate numbers which opens the floodgates to pushy phone calls for more purchases, or worse still ‘grooming’ calls where the scammer befriends and finds other ways to deceive you.
- Friendship scams – scammers may have initiated contact via online chat sites or email and are now calling regularly to build on that relationship and get to know you more. After several weeks or even months something changes and they start asking for financial help with medical expenses for them or a family member, for flight fees, to tide them over as they’ve just lost their job, house, or been the victim of a crime. Scammers like to groom and pull on heartstrings.
- Computer scams – scammers call and say there is a problem with your computer or broadband which can be fixed for a fee. They may request remote access and talk you through this process. Once they have access to your computer they can access other information including financial, personal files. They can also place a virus on your computer and hold it to ransom if you do not pay.
- Bank / Police Courier scams – scammers pretend to be a bank, the police and say there are unusual transactions on your account. They may even give you a telephone number to ring. They take you through security – obtaining personal information, bank details and often PINs. Sometimes scammers will say they have sent a courier to collect the bank card to assist with their investigations.
- Smishing scam – scammers text and lure you into scam websites, invite you to call premium rate numbers or download malicious content.
- Telephone Preference Service (TPS) scam – scammers call claiming to be the TPS and say it is no longer free and suggest setting up a payment plan.
- Nuisance Calls scam – scammers call repeatedly then claim to be a Call Blocking service that can assist with the problem, obviously for a fee. They may also suggest purchasing call blocking devices from them (that are probably over-priced, won’t work or will never arrive).
Take a stand against telephone scams
- Don’t feel pressured into making a decision over the telephone, speak to a friend or call the Citizens Advice Bureau on 0345 404 0506.
- Contact your telecoms provider today and ask about the call blocking services they offer – some may be free!
- Premium numbers begin with 09 and, 084, 087 and 070 have various rates attached.
- Never give out bank or personal details over the telephone and do not call a number given to you by callers.
- If the caller is vague about their company information, hang up.
- Don’t open texts or answer calls from unrecognisable numbers.
- Consider purchasing a call blocking device from the high street to filter out unwanted calls.
What to do if you have been scammed
- Get advice and report it to Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0345 404 0506 or online at citizensadvice.org.uk.
- Report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to help stop it happening to others.
- It’s not always possible to get your money back if you've been scammed, and handed over cash.
- If you've paid for goods or services by credit card you have more protection and if you used a debit card you may be able to ask your bank for a chargeback.
The SAFER Project of West Yorkshire Trading Standards has been funded by the Big Lottery to raise awareness about scams and doorstep crime affecting older people and vulnerable adults in West Yorkshire. Since 2012 The SAFER Project has delivered Community Workshops to over 20,500 people and trained over 4,100 frontline professionals such as the Police, Fire Service, NHS teams, social workers and carers in order to educate residents on the various tactics that telephone scammers use. The SAFER Project will be working with professionals and community groups to deliver a further 44 workshops and training sessions throughout Scams Awareness Month.
David Lodge, Head of West Yorkshire Trading Standards said: “People are seeing their money go down the drain as con artists use the all-important phone to get to them. Pressure sales, befriending and playing on hopes and fears show the scammers have sunk to an all-time low when preying on our most vulnerable. We urge you to look out for each other and spread the word about the latest scams so that your cash does not end up in the wrong hands.”
Councillor Pauline Grahame, of the West Yorkshire Joint Services Committee which oversees the work of Trading Standards said; “This month we are reinforcing the key messages for people to be vigilant, to put the phone down if you don’t recognise the person on the other end of the line and to report any calls which are pressuring or threatening. It is vital they are reported.”