About five years ago my father-in-law was the victim of a scam artist who fleeced him out of £5,000. Once he realised, he was devastated and we were able to work with his bank to get some of the money back. We thought it was all in the past but in the last six months he’s received numerous calls, letters and texts from what look like other scammers. We want to try and keep him safe as his memory isn’t the best, what can we do?
Unfortunately, falling victim to a scam once can increase exposure to further scams. Citizens Advice has found that, once someone has responded to a scam, their personal details can sometimes be sold onto other criminals. This then opens the door to more scam mail, emails, phone calls or home visits.
If you recognise a pattern of unsolicited calls, talk to your father-in-law’s telephone provider and see if you can get these numbers blocked or if you can get something called a ‘standalone call blocker.’ If not, register your father-in-law’s number with the Telephone Preference Service who can help you to handle unwanted marketing calls.
If your father-in-law is receiving texts it’s important that he never replies, as sometimes there can be costly hidden charges. He can report the texts to his mobile phone provider who will be able to block the number. If he’s already been stung and call cost information wasn’t given, he should report it to Phone-pay Plus.
Mail scammers can often impersonate banks, the local council, or other established and legitimate organisations. You should advise your father-in-law against responding unless he’s sure it’s legitimate and was expecting a letter. If in doubt he should contact the organisation directly to check the letter’s legitimacy. He should be careful to not just ring up the number on the letter as it could be a bogus call centre.
In addition, to safeguard your father-in-law from unwanted marketing material or junk mail, register his name and address for free with the Mailing Preference Service which will take his name off some mailing lists.
Doorstep scammers can often be intimidating, and unfortunately they commonly target older and more vulnerable people. No-one should be embarrassed about turning people away and he shouldn’t let them in unless he’s expecting them. If someone comes to the door saying they are from one of his utility companies for example, he should ask to check their credentials. If in doubt, he should phone the company they represent or check online, but once again make sure to not just use the contact details they provide.
Remember it might be a scam if:
- it seems too good to be true – for example, a holiday that’s significantly cheaper than you’d expect it to be
- someone you don’t know contacts you unexpectedly
- you suspect you’re not dealing with a real company – for example, if there’s no postal address
- you’ve been asked to transfer money quickly
- you’ve been asked to pay in an unusual way – for example, through a transfer service like MoneyGram or Western Union
- you’ve been asked to give away personal information like passwords or PINs
- you haven’t had written confirmation of what’s been agreed
If you’re helping someone who’s been scammed, there are ways you can manage their bank account for them. You might need to do this if you want to stop payments or claim back money. The person you’re helping needs to fill in a form giving you permission to manage their account. This is known as a ‘third party mandate’. Most banks have a third party mandate on their website.
Citizens Advice has recently launched a Scam Action Line which gives advice and information about online scams in particular. You can get help if you think you might have found an online scam or you’ve been scammed online or if you’re acting on behalf of someone who’s been scammed online. You can find out what to do next, and get support on the issues arising from the scam Call the free Scam Action Line on 0808 250 5050. Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
Sometimes scammers ask to access your computer so they can control it remotely. For example, they might pretend to be from your internet provider and say they need to deal with a technical problem. The scammer might have infected your computer with a virus, or stolen passwords and financial information. To stay safe you should:
- reset your passwords
- let your bank know your financial information might have been stolen
- make sure you update your anti-virus software
You could also get an IT professional to check your computer.
If you transferred money to the scammer in the last 24 hours tell the police immediately by calling 101.
If you think your account details or PIN have been stolen contact your bank immediately so they can protect your account.
After you’ve told your bank about the scam, keep an eye on your bank statements and look out for any unusual transactions. Also check your credit score to see if there are applications for credit you don’t recognise.
Finally, it is good to talk to your friends and relatives about the risks of scams so it is more out in the open and people are more aware.