Scammed – it can happen to anyone

As soon as you let yourself through the front door you know something is wrong. His normally blaring TV is unusually silent. You call out and you hear his sobs down the hallway. You enter the lounge and find him sitting in his usual chair, dressed in hat and coat, body trembling and tears rolling down his face. This is George, 72 years old, a former chef and living alone after his wife died several years ago. You usually visit him 3 times a week and look forward to it, for George likes a laugh and he is one of your clients who always puts a smile on your face. Thirty minutes later, a cup of tea and a biscuit in his trembling hands, George’s tears have turned to anger and he begins to tell you how he has been tricked into parting with £1150, a substantial dent in his dwindling life savings.

George recounts to you how he received a telephone call from a lady who identified herself as a member of HM Revenue & Customs and telling him that he owed a substantial amount of tax. The woman told him that the only way to pay off his debt was by purchasing digital gift cards, such as Amazon and iTunes vouchers. George tells you that at one point he had even questioned what the lady was telling him and asked her if he could send a cheque instead. Her response was to tell him that if he didn’t pay off the debt immediately, the HMRC would have no alternative, other than to send bailiffs to seize his property. Clearly embarrassed George tells you that he was confused and scared, feeling it was best to comply with the woman’s request. He describes how he went to the local retail park and purchased the gift cards, returned home, where the same woman had called back at the exact time, she said she would. The woman then instructed him to read out the redemption codes on the gift cards. George tells you that the worse thing about the whole thing is that he had a feeling it was not right and it didn’t take long afterwards to realise he had been conned.

Whilst you are full of sympathy and support for George, at the back of your mind you struggle with why he might have fallen for what appears to you to be quite an unbelievable con. For George’s sake you keep your thoughts to yourself but secretly you think, why would anyone believe the HMRC would want to be paid in Amazon vouchers. However as difficult as this is to believe, according to the UK’s national fraud reporting centre, from the start of 2016 until August 2017, over 1,500 people had fallen victim to this particular audacious scam, pretty much all of them elderly and vulnerable like George.

You phone HMRC on George’s behalf, really to confirm what you both know already, it’s a scam. The genuine HMRC officer tells you that this is a very common telephone fraud and by now the criminals have either sold on or used the redemption codes to purchase luxury goods. They advise you to call the police but say there is little chance of tracing the scammer. George is one of an estimated 5 million plus people a year who fall victim to scams. His £1150 has just been swallowed up in a crime that globally sees victims lose an estimated £3.24 trillion a year, with UK losses estimated to be £110bn (individuals and organisations). You resolve yourself to tell all your other clients that they need to be on the look-out for fraudsters, but exactly what should you tell them? Where do you get the information you need to improve your own knowledge and inform others? How do you become ‘scam aware’?

The world of fraud is complex and ever evolving. The internet is filled with hundreds of web pages that describe the various frauds in great detail, offering advice on how a person can protect themselves. The web is undoubtedly the best resource to identify a new scam doing the rounds or one that is being recycled (they often are). If you were to receive an email pertaining to be from HMIC and requesting money, the chances that someone has already highlighted the scam on the web. However, this article is about signposting you to five great resources that are non-complicated, informative and fairly easy on the eye. They will hopefully assist you in keeping the people you care for, safe from some seriously devious and evil people. Those resources are:

  1. The ‘Action Fraud’ website.
  2. The Little Book of Big Scams.
  3. Consumer website – Which
  4. Age UK – Avoiding Scams guide
  5. The ‘Get Safe Online’ website

But first a few facts…….

What are the Big 5?  

Some of our Do’s and Don’ts

Some of our online Do’s and Don’ts

The Help

  1. Action Fraud website.

Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime where you should report fraud if you have been scammed, defrauded or experienced cyber-crime in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. They provide a central point of contact for information about fraud and financially motivated internet crime. The service is run by the City of London Police working alongside the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau who are responsible for assessment of the reports and to ensure that your fraud reports reach the right place.

Victims and their carers can report fraud and cyber-crime using Action Fraud’s online reporting portal.

The service is available 24/7 and also directs victims to help and support services. For those that don’t like online reporting, you can also report by calling 0300 123 2040. That service is available – Monday to Friday 8am – 8pm. Once you have reported the fraud you will receive a police crime reference number. The crime will then be assessed by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, who will then determine what agency/police force will take responsibility for the investigation.

Whilst you can report fraud and cyber-crime online, Action Fraud also provide a host of other services and information. This includes the A-Z of frauds where you will find the different types of fraud broken down into various useful headings e.g. pension, telecoms, charity frauds. They also have pages on victim support, advice on prevention and useful organisations.  You can also register for Action Fraud Alert which will allow you to receive regular updates from Action Fraud about emerging crime types which are current and may be relevant to you.

  1. The Little Book of Big Scams

Produced by the Metropolitan Police Service, this is the best book around on scams and frauds, and we are not saying that because we are biased. This is packed full of information, not only on the common frauds mentioned in our article above, but it also covers:

  • wi-fi hotspots
  • online shopping and auction sites
  • computer software fraud
  • recruitment fraud
  • holiday fraud
  • ticketing fraud
  • courier fraud

3. Which

The consumer group Which has fabulous resources and information available to help keep people safe from scams. Their resources include guides on scams aimed at older people, including doorstep, phone and postal scam; and advice on consumer rights. They also have a Trusted Traders search engine, plus links and advice on how to prevent unwarranted mail and nuisance calls.

4. Age UK information guide Avoiding Scams– a smart way to protect yourself.

This is an easy to read 33-page guide covering the following scams:

  • doorstep
  • postal
  • email and online
  • telephone
  • identity theft
  • investment and pension
  • relationshi

5. Get Safe Online

Get Safe Online is a website offering factual and easy-to-understand information on online safety. It provides practical advice on how to protect your online presence, your computers and mobile devices. As well as detailing the various frauds, it also feeds in the latest news, tips and stories from around the world. The subject tabs at the top of the site opens up into an array of different topics allowing you to quickly identify what subject you wish to view. Get Safe Online is a public / private sector partnership supported by HM Government and leading organisations in banking, retail, internet security and other sectors.

Lastly, whilst not aimed at the individual, The Little Book of Cyber Scams’ may be of some use. This is  the follow up to the Little Book of Big Scams. We haven’t included it in our recommended five valuable resources because it has been specifically designed to offer advice  on how to stay in the cyber world, for Small and Medium businesses. Whilst much of it is pitched at those with a good knowledge of cyber matters, it does provide a deeper insight into topics like: hacking, malware and wi-fi hotspots.



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By / Published On: May 21st, 2022 / Tags: , , , / Categories: Analysis, Safeguarding Hub Blog, Vulnerable Adults /

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