What can you do if you are worried that an elderly or vulnerable relative, friend or neighbour may be at risk of falling victim to scams?
As well as talking to elderly people about scams and how scammers operate, there are steps you can take that can help to reduce the opportunities for scammers to reach them, and to offer additional protection in the event that they are targeted by fraudsters. Here are some…
Sign them up to the Mailing Preference Service
If someone you know is being bombarded with large amounts of mail, it’s a good idea to get them signed up to the Mailing Preference Service (MPS). This will have the effect of stopping UK organisations that are members of the Direct Marketing Association from sending them personally-addressed mail unless they have expressly given those companies permission to do so.
However, as most scammers are unlikely to be members of the DMA, it won’t stop scam mail getting through – but if the person knows they are registered with the MPS and ought not to be receiving any unsolicited letters or catalogues, this should raise suspicions of any that do arrive.
You can register online for the Mailing Preference Service at www.mpsonline.org.uk or by phoning 020 7291 3310.
WARNING: Beware of people calling you claiming to be from the Mailing Preference Service asking for payment to complete your registration – this is itself a scam!!
Sign them up to the Royal Mail opt-out service
You can also opt out of Royal Mail Door to Door. This stops all unaddressed mail being delivered to their home via Royal Mail deliveries. If they wish to opt out, they should send their name and address to Freepost, Royal Mail Customer Services or email their name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org. An opt-out form will then be sent to their address, which they must complete and return. More details on this here.
Register their numbers with the Telephone Preference Service
If someone you know is receiving lots of phone calls from commercial organisations, it’s a good idea to get them 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 the person’s phone number. Of course, scammers won’t take any notice of the TPS – but if the person is registered and knows they are not supposed to receive any more calls, it should be obvious that the caller is not legitimate.
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 customers’ junk voicemail boxes. It also allows people to compile their personal blacklist of numbers they 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, there is a big range in quality of service. 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 even 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 set up on your phone. Some phone providers charge for this service.
Register them with the Fundraising Preference Service
The Fundraising Preference Service lets you choose which charities you do and don’t want to be contacted by. The purpose of this service is to prevent charities from swapping or selling the personal details of donors and then inundating those donors with requests for money. Once you sign up to the FPS, only those charities which you have elected to stay in touch with, are allowed to contact you.
Sign them up to Action Fraud Alert
Encourage them to sign up to the Action Fraud Alert to receive free information about scams and fraud in their area by email, recorded voice and text message.
Put a ‘no cold callers’ sign on their door or window.
Request a ‘no cold callers’ sign from your local council or find a printable version online, and place it somewhere visible to people outside.
Create a password for use by utility companies
Encourage them to set up a password with their utility companies – this password will be used by anyone they send round to the person’s home so they can be sure the caller is genuine.
You, or some you know, has been scammed. What happens now?
Thousands of people, especially older people, do fall victim to scammers every year. Realising that you’ve been duped can be a highly distressing experience. Many people are embarrassed and ashamed to admit they have been scammed, and are reluctant to report it. But they really should report it, so that the authorities can take steps to try and prevent others from falling victim to the same scam.
Click here to find out what to do to report a scam and support someone who has been scammed.
What can you do if you know that someone you know is being scammed, but refuses to accept it?
Think Jessica is a charity committed to making people aware of the dangers and financial implications caused by postal and telephone scams, by educating professionals and protecting the most vulnerable members of society from illegal practices. It was set up by the daughter of an elderly woman, Jessica, who was completely taken in by scammers over several years, and lost all her savings to them – despite continual warnings from her family about what was happening. Jessica built up an emotional bond with the scammers – particularly one who claimed to be a clairvoyant – and spent years convinced that she was on the verge of winning a huge prize pot.
Jessica’s is not a unique case. The shocking case studies on Think Jessica’s website can be helpful if you are struggling to make someone aware that they are being scammed.
As a society, we need to raise awareness of the potential for scams by talking about them more. Informed consumers are much less likely to fall for scams.
To help you spread the word about scams and how people can avoid falling victim to them, we’ve compiled a range of free campaign materials that you can use to educate and inform people in your neighbourhood.
Access the toolkit here.