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Fraudsters still using old tricks: how to stay safe

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Online scams are on the rise, but fraudsters continue to use traditional tactics to con people out of their money.

Citizens Advice received more than 11,000 complaints last year about ‘offline’ scams involving doorstep selling, unsolicited mail and cold calling, with the average victim losing £3,000.

These ‘tried and tested’ methods accounted for more than half of the 19,476 scams reported to the charity in 2018.

‘It didn’t feel like a scam’

Christine, 70, from West Sussex was scammed out of £520 when two men knocked on her door, offering to clean her gutters.

When they’d finished the work, one of the men said he’d give Christine a 10-year guarantee, but when he returned to the van to get the certificate, he drove off.

“I looked at the gutters and I could still see weeds,” she said.

“The worst part was that it didn’t seem, or feel, like a scam. They looked professional and said they’d completed work on my neighbours’ houses.”

Citizens Advice said fraudsters overwhelmingly target older, more vulnerable people with more traditional tactics.

Gillian Guy, the charity’s chief executive, said: “Tried-and-tested scams still pose a huge threat. Even in this digital age where online scams are on the rise, scammers are continuing to use traditional routes to prey on people.”

Lord Toby Harris, chair of National Trading Standards, said: “We’re seeing these scams increasing as criminals adopt more sophisticated techniques to avoid detection, such as sending scam mail via third party countries and using ‘blank’ envelopes.”

Top tips to stay safe

  1. Be suspicious if you’re contacted out of the blue, even if it’s from a name you recognise
  2. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is
  3. Never send money to someone you’ve never met
  4. Never give out your bank details unless you are certain you can trust the person contacting you
  5. Don’t be rushed – you never need to make a decision straight away and if you feel pressured say “no”
  6. Suspect a scam? Hang up, wait five minutes to clear the line or use another phone to call
  7. Don’t suffer in silence – speak out about scams

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