Scammers will call you on the telephone to obtain your personal details or to persuade you to send them money for some sort of transaction. These scams are known as ‘vishing’ and are becoming more prevalent. Research by Citizens Advice suggests that scams experienced by people aged 65 and over are more likely to occur through phone calls, while younger people are more likely to experience online or email fraud.
Some common telephone scams include
Posing as officials from your bank
- Scammers call you to say that your bank account has been fraudulently accessed and therefore a new ‘safe’ account is opened that you should transfer your money into.
- Courier scams usually consist of two parts; firstly scammers will cold call, claiming to be from the bank or other authority and persuade you to tell them their PIN. Then they will send a fraudulent courier to your house to pick up your bank card, which will also give them your address.
- Scammers cold-call and try to sell you shares in emerging markets. They build trust with victims through extensive grooming, persuading the victim to part with large sums of money for false or low-value business opportunities in products such as wine, diamonds or land. In the UK the loss to investment fraud is well over £1 billion each year, according to Action Fraud. Click here to read more about investment scams.
- Scammers will call claiming to be collecting money for charity and either pocket your donation or use personal details to access bank accounts.
Frequent and persistent calls
- Legitimate as well as illegitimate organisations pressurise people to spend money.
- A telephone call states that there is a problem with your computer or laptop and help is offered to fix the issue. But instead, the scammers install programs onto your computer that steal or delete your personal data.
You receive text messages offering money as compensation for an accident you had, or prizes where texts/calls at premium rates are charged with no prize at the end.
Mobile phone SMS text messages are sent to try to scam you into divulging your personal information. These often claim to be from your bank or another large organisation, state there has been a fraud on your account, and ask you to deal with it by calling a number or visiting a fake website to update your personal details. Or you might get a text purporting to be from HMRC or your council, claiming you are due a tax refund and directing you to a website link to apply for it.
Any one of these 5 signs could indicate it’s a scam phone call:
The caller asks you to transfer money to a new account for fraud reasons
They phone to ask for your 4-digit PIN or online banking password. Even if they ask you to tap it into your telephone keypad rather than saying it out loud, it’s still a scam
The caller doesn’t give you time to think, tries to stop you speaking to another householder or is insistent and makes you feel uncomfortable
They ask you to withdraw money to hand over to them for safekeeping
They say you’ve been a victim of fraud and offer to send a courier to your home to collect your cash, PIN, payment card or cheque book
Any one of these 3 signs could indicate it’s a scam text message:
It asks you to provide sensitive personal or financial information, passwords, or to make transactions or claim refunds by following a link in the message
It claims to be from your bank or another reputable organisation and asks you to call a number that isn’t familiar to you. In this case, call the organisation on their official number and check that the message was authentic
The sender uses an urgent tone, urging you to ‘act now’.
How to prevent being a scam victim
Never agree to anything over the phone. Just hang up if you feel at all wary of a caller.
Don’t assume a caller or texter is genuine just because they already have some details about you, such as your name. Criminals will often already have some basic information about you.
Remember: Your bank or building society will NEVER contact you out of the blue to ask for your PIN, full password or to move money to another account. If you receive a call from your bank requesting any of these, hang up immediately.
Never give out any personal information over the phone, such as bank account or credit card details, unless you made the call.
If you’re not sure about a caller who claims to be from a legitimate bank or company, you can always end the call and then call the company back yourself, using a phone number from their official website or letters sent to you. Always wait five minutes before calling back though, to ensure the first caller has hung up – it takes both sides to terminate a phone call.
Never give control of your computer remotely to a third party over the phone.
Never reply to unsolicited text messages, even to try and stop them. Just delete them.
There are also some practical steps you can take in advance to reduce the risk that you will fall victim to a telephone scam:
Register with the Telephone Preference Service
- If you are being bombarded with lots of phone calls from commercial organisations, it’s a good idea to get signed up to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). This will have the effect of stopping legitimate companies from making unsolicited sales and marketing calls to your phone number. Of course, scammers won’t take any notice of the TPS – but if you are registered with TPS and know you are not supposed to receive any more calls, it should be obvious that the caller is not legitimate.
- Register at www.tpsonline.org.uk.
- Mobile phone users can also send a simple text message to opt out of unsolicited sales and marketing calls. To add your number to the UK’s official ‘Do Not Call’ database, text ‘TPS’ and your email address to 85095.
- If you are registering a mobile number you can also download TPS Protect, which will send you messages about new scams and nuisance calls. You can find it online here or on the App Store or Google Play.
Install a call blocker
Installing a call blocker is another way of preventing nuisance calls getting through. Most telephone service providers will have their own versions that you can subscribe to as part of their service, though these can come at a price.
BT’s Call Protect automatically diverts calls that BT believes to be from nuisance callers to your junk voicemail box. It also allows you to compile your personal blacklist of numbers you wish to block.
Phones with inbuilt call-blocking
- Many home phones now come with some call blocking technology. These are often more powerful than the network options listed above and are usually better value as the cost is included in that of the phone – you don’t keep paying for it every month.
- However, the quality of service ranges widely. The cheapest call blocking phones will only block specific numbers. A more useful form of blocking lets you block all numbers from a specific range, such as all numbers beginning with 08. More advanced phones will also block calls from withheld or international numbers, ideally diverting them to your voicemail, just in case they’re from a genuine caller.
Standalone call blockers
- If you don’t want to replace your home phone you can always buy a separate call blocking device that plugs into your existing phone.
- Most of these work in the same way as call blockers built into phones in that they have a ‘blacklist’ of numbers or number types that you reject. But TrueCall call blockers are different in that they are based on a ‘white list’ of numbers that you do want to take calls from. All other calls are screened, giving you the option to reject and block forever those you don’t want to accept.
- It’s worth noting that call blocking phones, and standalone devices, will only work if you have caller ID. You have to set this up with your network provider and some of them charge for this service.
- Installing a call blocker is definitely worth considering, though. Research from 2016 by Trading Standards in East Renfrewshire found that call blocking technology blocked up to 98% of nuisance calls. Residents who tested it reported a positive impact, leaving them feeling safer and in greater control of who contacts them.
Signs that someone you know might be a target of telephone scams
Sometimes, victims of telephone scammers come to feel that the people calling them are friends – if they live alone, sometimes the scammers are the only people they have regular contact with.
Some of the signs are:
They receive high volumes of phone calls and/or texts
They make frequent payments
They reference “opportunities” offered by callers
They refer to callers as friends
They talk about a helpful caller who has helped them to “fix” their computer.