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Warning over cold calls: 12 ways to spot a scam

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Fraudulent banking services, dodgy credit brokers and bogus investment opportunities are the most common cons at the end of a cold-call, finds Citizens Advice.

Two in five (41%) scams reported to the Citizens Advice service come from a cold call – making it the most common method of con reported to the national charity – followed by online scams at 18 per cent.

The charity found that almost half (46%) of scams reported were made by people over 55.

This has prompted a warning that pensioners and those approaching retirement age are more at risk of scams, particularly in light of the recent pension reforms.  One 54-year old was contacted by a cold call offering to release money from her pension pot, and narrowly avoided losing £30,000.

Analysis of more than 20,000 scams reported between April 2014 and March 2015 also found that over a third (37%) of cold call scams reported to the national charity are for professional and financial services.

One person was persuaded by a cold-caller to invest £100,000 into fine wines, only to find they were worth less than half the amount he paid.

Meanwhile, 2 in 5 of all postal scams are lotteries or prize draws, inviting people to claim a prize for a competition they haven’t entered. A caller to Citizens Advice reported that a relative had been repeatedly targeted with prize draw scams, parting with more than £10,000 in fees to claim a prize that didn’t exist.

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

“The new 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.”

Twelve tell-tale signs for spotting scams

  • If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
  • If you haven’t bought a ticket – you can’t win it.
  • You shouldn’t have to pay anything to get a prize.
  • If in doubt, don’t reply. Bin it, delete it or hang up.
  • Contacted out of the blue? – be suspicious.
  • Don’t be rushed – resist pressure to make a decision straight away.
  • Never send money to someone you have never met.
  • Walk away from job ads that ask for money in advance.
  • Your bank will never attend your home to collect cash, your pin, payment card or chequebook if you are a victim of fraud.
  • Your bank will never phone you to ask for your PIN or your online banking password.
  • Your bank will never ask you to transfer money to a new account for fraud reasons.
  • Suspect a phone scam? Hang up, wait five minutes to clear the line or use another phone to call your bank.
  • Genuine computer firms do not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer.

If you spot a scam or believe you may have been scammed you can contact your local Citizens Advice or the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 (for advice in Welsh phone 03454 04 05 05).

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