Scams awareness - where to find help and advice
June is this year’s Scams Awareness month and the Trading Standards team at Orkney Islands Council is reminding people to be on their guard for scams which can target all age groups.
Figures released nationally by the Citizens Advice Bureau advise that three quarters of people have been targeted by scams in the last two years via mail, phone calls, text messages, emails, online or face to face.
Just over one in 10 people know friends or family members who have lost money to a scam, while out of 10 people targeted by a scam do not tell anyone about it, possibly because they are embarrassed if they have lost money.
Less than one fifth of incidents of fraud are brought to the attention of agencies such as the Police or Trading Standards but the estimated amount lost each year to scams and fraud in the UK is 10.9 billion pounds.
Scams Awareness Month is focusing on young people, people aged 40 to 60, older people, and those who are socially isolated.
Recent cases reported in Orkney have involved the loss of five figure sums though banking and phone scams.
“These are devastating for those affected and unfortunately there can be no guarantee that the money will be refunded,” said local trading standards officer Alison Campbell. “Those affected have reported how plausible the approaches can be.”
Scams come in all guises. Callers may ring using an Orkney area code to make you think the caller is local.
They may use ‘number spoofing’ - where the number displayed on your phone is the same as the number on your bank card.
The caller may have a Scottish accent, be pleasant to speak to and provide what appears to be kind advice if you express concerns about the subject of the call.
The main messages of Scams Awareness Month are:
- A scam can happen to anyone. Be scam aware.
- Always report scams to help prevent others falling victim.
- Even if you think you could spot a scam, always be cautious. Scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated.
- Scams aren’t just a minor inconvenience to people, they can cause distress, misery and even if a scam has been avoided, it can lead to widespread loss of confidence.
How to avoid losing out to scams
Get advice if you have been the target of a scam or are unsure about an approach. You can contact:
- Trading Standards on 01856 873535 or by email. Trading Standards will also have information available within Customer Services at School Place during the month of June including leaflets on reducing unwanted calls.
- Police Scotland on 101 or report in person at Kirkwall Police Station.
- The Citizens Advice Bureau can also offer advice on 875266 or in person at Anchor Buildings.
Scams can be reported online so that a UK wide picture is established for fraud, but you can also report to any of the organisations listed above. If the scam involves your debit/credit cards, online banking or cheques the first step should be to contact your bank or credit card company.
Tell other people
If you share your experiences with others, they are less likely to be affected by scams themselves and can share that information with other people that they know.
Young people are unlikely to report a scam, should it happen to them.
- Confident with digital media, under 25’s are confident in their ability when using the internet, leading them to feel that they are unlikely to fall for online scams that target them via email, social media and website advertising. However, they are often found to be the victim of online scams such as subscription traps, job scams and identity fraud.
- In 2015, Action Fraud reported a 64% increase on the previous year in the number of people approached on Instagram.
Those in their 40s, 50s and 60s
Although anyone can fall victim to a scam, statistics show that people in this age range are the most affected by scams. People in this age group are more vulnerable to a wide range of scams, due to their personal circumstances.
- At this age, you are more likely to own your own home and have access to financial assets so are likely to be targeted by investment fraud, phishing, banking, property and pension liberation scams.
- Victims of cybercrime fraud are also more likely to be in this age group and the average loss in cybercrime fraud rose from £166 in 2015/16 to £270 in 2016/17.
The over 70s
Older people are often targeted by a range of scammers a number of times.
- The average age of scam victims is 75 and those over 70 have the highest level of detriment from scams, targeted by landline, phone and mail.
- Those aged 61-80 are more likely to be victims of investment fraud highlighting again that scammers target those they perceive as having wealth. This type of fraud has a huge effect on victims with the average loss to victims £10,000 compared to £395 as the average lost across all scams reported.
Those who are socially isolated
People who are socially isolated can be the hardest to reach and often can’t access the same support to protect themselves from scams.
- Although people who are socially isolated don’t frequently report scams, they often have high levels of detriment, not just in the amount of money lost, but the overall impact on health and wellbeing.
- Relatives, friends and neighbours should take steps to ensure those who are socially isolated have protection from scams and they should report suspicious scam activity.