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Q1080: Phone scams and the elderly

A phone scam is where a fraudster calls you on the phone or sends a text, to try to trick you into giving them personal information, bank details or money. Scams are increasingly clever and sophisticated, and as a result they catch people out. It isn't just the elderly who are susceptible to scams but it is the elderly who are often targeted.

Tips to reduce your risk of being scammed:

  • Never do anything you don't want to or make decisions on the spot.
  • Always check their credentials.
  • Ask someone you trust for a second opinion.
  • Do not give away any personal information.
  • Share your experience with others to lower their risk of being scammed.

Some callers will claim to be from your bank, for example, and to confirm that they are genuine, they will ask you to call them back using the proper telephone number for that bank / company. However, when scammers do this, they remain on the line when you hang up and dial the bank's number, so that you remain connected to them. To ensure they are genuine, make another call to someone you know, before calling them back, so that you know the original call has been disconnected. See Q887 for further details regarding this.

The missed call scam is when fraudsters telephone you but hang up before the call is answered. Many people will ring back in case it is urgent. These calls can incur premium-rate charges and payments can be applied for just connecting the call, regardless of how long you stay on the line. In some cases you may hear a long recorded message to keep you on the phone for as long as possible so that the charges mount up. The scammers get a share of the revenue generated by the calls.

If you are concerned that you or a relative have received a scam call or text, hang up or delete the text. You can call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or visit their website (see link in related information) to report it.

You can reduce unwanted phone calls by:

  • signing up the Telephone Preference Service, this registration service is free, please see the links in Relation Information for details;
  • investing in a caller ID service from your phone provider, and only taking calls from numbers that you recognise;
  • removing your details from the public phone directory;
  • reporting silent / abandoned calls to Ofcom (see link in related information).

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