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A third of cold-call scams are for fraudulent financial services

Kit Klarenberg
Written By:
Kit Klarenberg

Fraudulent banking services, dodgy credit brokers and bogus investment opportunities are the most common cold-call cons, Citizens Advice research has found.

The findings indicate that 46 per cent of scams reported to Citizens Advice last year are made by people over 55, suggesting that pensioners and those approaching retirement are particularly at risk of being scammed.

Analysis of more than 20,000 scams reported between April 2014 and March 2015 also reveals that different types of scam use different methods to approach people. 37 per cent of cold-call scams are for professional and financial services.

40 per cent of all postal scams are lotteries or prize draws, inviting people to claim a prize for a competition they haven’t entered. 4 out of 5 doorstep scams are to do with home improvements and household services. Common scams include repairs to central heating, insulation and roofing, invitations to switch gas and electricity suppliers, and people posing as tree surgeons.

2 in 5 internet scams are about personal goods and services including cosmetics that never arrive, beauty treatments that aren’t what they say on the tin and slimming pill subscription traps.

Particularly egregious examples of scams include:

  • A 54-year old cold-called and invited to release money from their pension pot, who narrowly avoided losing £30,000
  • A pensioner persuaded by a cold-caller to invest £100,000 in fine wines, only to find they were worth less than half the amount they paid
  • A consumer targeted by a prize draw scam, who parted with more than £10,000 in fees to claim a prize that didn’t exist

The most common ways people are approached by scammers:

  1. Cold-calling (41 per cent)
  2. Internet (18 per cent)
  3. Postal (14 per cent),
  4. Telephone call initiated by the victim (9 per cent)
  5. Doorstep, uninvited (5 per cent)

The research comes as Citizens Advice launches Scams Awareness Month, which highlights how scams can flourish if they go unreported. The organisation is urging people to seek advice if they think they’ve been conned, and report suspected scams, to prevent scams from spreading.

“Scams often prey on people’s most pressing needs – bogus investments, fake debt remedies and fraudulent bank services can devastate people’s finances,” said Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice.

“The pensions freedoms mean it is even more important that people think twice before responding to an unexpected call offering to release money from pensions, or too-good-to-be true investments.

“Scams can thrive on silence. Con artists often try to pressure people into buying straight away, and not tell anyone about the deal. We’re urging people to talk about scams and report them to the authorities. This will stop scammers from getting away with it and avoid others falling foul of their cons.”