As Christmas draws nearer, many of us are looking forward to catching up with family members or friends we haven’t seen in a while.
But with fraudsters targeting people with cold calls, by post, online and even on the doorstep, mutual insurer Royal London is urging families to keep a lookout for signs that loved ones may have fallen victim to a scam. While people of all ages can be targeted, those who may be suffering from loneliness could be particularly vulnerable, says Royal London.
Helen Morrissey, a personal finance specialist at the firm, says: “Families have become increasingly geographically dispersed and may not see each other as often as they would like, and so telltale signs might be missed. Making visits over the festive season can prove to be an important opportunity to make sure all is well with a loved one.”
So how can you spot signs that a loved one may have been targeted by scammers, and what can you do about it? Here are some tips from Royal London, which has produced a “Good with your Money” guide on the issue.
What are the signs?
Victims of mail scams can receive large quantities of letters from scammers, promising fake prizes, for example. Similarly, once a scam target’s details have been passed around criminals, they could also find themselves receiving lots of cold calls.
If someone mentions a “great investment opportunity” they’ve been told about, this could also be a warning sign, as many scammers reel their victims in with promises of “high returns”, often in unusual assets or based abroad. If something sounds like it is too good to be true then it usually is.
How to broach the subject
This can be difficult, as people may feel they have chosen a great investment opportunity, or they may feel they have built up a good relationship with the scammer. They may also feel defensive or embarrassed, so you could be worried about an argument being triggered.
One way of tackling the tricky subject could be to find a recent news story about someone being scammed as a way of starting a conversation about how people can protect themselves. Try to keep the conversation flowing, rather than bombarding them with questions.
How to report scams
Scams can be reported to Action Fraud (actionfraud.police.uk), the UK’s national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre, as well as Trading Standards.
What else can be done?
Unwanted marketing information can be cut out by signing up to the Mailing Preference Service and the Telephone Preference Service. More information on reducing nuisance correspondence and reporting concerns can be found on the Information Commissioner’s Office website (ico.org.uk).
You can also help your loved one in contacting the bank, to stop any suspect transfers that may be about to go through and have a chat about how to protect their account further. If a fraudster has a lot of details about your loved one and the victim is worried about identity fraud, they may need to change information, such as passwords, to protect themselves, and check their statements for bank transfers they didn’t authorise.