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Whittlesey and District Neighbourhood Watch

Whittlesey and District Neighbourhood Watch

Creating safer, stronger and active communities

Email and Online Scams

The internet has been a boon for scammers, enabling them to contact potential victims around the world while staying anonymous.  As older people become more confident and accustomed to using the internet, their risk of becoming a victim of online scams increases.

Action Fraud lists 30 different types of online fraud.  Fraudsters have invented scams for all manner of products and services, including loans, dating, holidays, business opportunities, clairvoyants, pharmaceuticals, lottery prizes, even recovery of money lost to fraud!

According to Which?, 62% of people say they have been targeted by online scammers in the last 12 months.


Different types of online fraud


People targeted by online scammers


Many scammers use email to target their victims with fraudulent offers or requests for personal information, but this is not the only way that fraudsters operate online.  Here are some others:

– Fake pop-ups in your online banking window

– Retail websites offering fake goods

– Links in email or social media messages that, once clicked on, will infect your computer with a virus or malware that deletes or steals your data

– Providing fraudulent wifi connections in public places

Older people are judged to be particularly at risk of certain types of online scams…

Romance Scams

Spot the signs

People who have fallen victim to romance scams tend to report the same pattern. If someone you know is using online dating or friendship sites and reports any of these signs, it may indicate they are being scammed…

Generally the scam starts with an initial contact by the scammer

The scammer may be a member of the same online dating site as you or any online forum you have joined. The scammer may also contact you on social media such as Facebook – this is why you should never accept friend requests from people you don’t know.

Their profile picture is very attractive

It’s common for scammers to use stolen photographs of beautiful people. You can check whether someone’s profile picture is associated with anyone else by accessing the website in Google Chrome, right-clicking on the picture and then clicking ‘Search Google for image’.  Google will then display any other websites that the image is on.  If the person seems to have a different name on other websites, chances are they are tricking you.

The scammer asks you a lot of questions about yourself

This is because the more information they know about you, the easier you will be to manipulate. The scammer will spin a tale about him or herself as well. Eventually you begin speaking over the phone. This stage can last for weeks, even months.

The discussion is friendly at first, but turns romantic very quickly

They shower you with compliments and claim to be falling in love with you.  Victims usually report that this shift occurs very early on in the relationship – so if it all seems to be happening too fast, it might very well be a scam.

Their story, or parts of it, change over time

If someone is making up their life story, it can be easy to forget what they’ve said before.  If some part of their story doesn’t sound quite right, or match what they said last month, that could indicate they are lying.

Their grammar and spelling is poor

Many scams originate overseas. If the scammer tells you they’re from the UK, but writes as if English is not their first language, this should be a red flag.

They refuse to Skype or video call you, or meet in person

They always find an excuse as to why they can’t do this.

Eventually the scammer asks you to lend them money

They use any number of reasons:  they need help to pay for the flight or other transport to meet you.  They are in some sort of trouble.  They need money to pay for medical care, either for themselves or someone close to them. Or they have a great business or investment opportunity that could benefit both of your futures.

Emerging Threats

New scams are appearing all the time.  The following are some of the new and emerging scams identified either by National Trading Standards or by Natwest, which could be used to target older people.

Energy saving scams

The end of the Green Deal has coincided with increasing numbers of cases involving energy-related scams dealt with Trading Standards officers – many focused around nuisance calls.

Criminals selling items on social media

The trend is for an increasing variety of what can be bought through Facebook, Gumtree and other sites – for example there’s been a spate of ‘clocked cars’ (where a car’s mileage is adjusted downwards to add value) being sold in this way.

Telephone preference scams

A growing number of companies are selling ‘call blocking’ devices that are ineffective and lead to unexpected charges. Known as telephone preference scams, the scammers cold-call people and claim to be from the Telephone Preference Service, and then charge them for registration or for useless call blocking devices.

Subscription traps

Consumers or businesses are enticed to sign up to a free trial of a product or to pay a small fee to access an offer. But the offer is – intentionally or not on the part of the company – misleading and so without realising it, the victim is then trapped into making costly monthly payments without their informed consent, which can be difficult to stop.

Social media spying

People might not realise how much information they are giving away on social networking sites, but to a fraudster the posts can be very helpful in setting up a scam.

Malicious software on smartphones

Natwest expects that malware or malicious software threats will grow among mobile devices.

Bogus Brexit investments

Consumers should be wary of fake investment opportunities. For example, fraudsters may email customers, warning that Brexit will affect their savings, and that they urgently need to move them into a seemingly plausible, but actually fake, investment product.

Scams: Protecting Your Community

What can you do if you are worried that an elderly or vulnerable relative, friend or neighbour may be at risk of falling victim to scams?

As well as talking to elderly people about scams and how scammers operate, there are steps you can take that can help to reduce the opportunities for scammers to reach them, and to offer additional protection in the event that they are targeted by fraudsters. Here are some…

Sign them up to the Mailing Preference Service

If someone you know is being bombarded with large amounts of mail, it’s a good idea to get them signed up to the Mailing Preference Service (MPS).  This will have the effect of stopping UK organisations that are members of the Direct Marketing Association from sending them personally-addressed mail unless they have expressly given those companies permission to do so.

However, as most scammers are unlikely to be members of the DMA, it won’t stop scam mail getting through – but if the person knows they are registered with the MPS and ought not to be receiving any unsolicited letters or catalogues, this should raise suspicions of any that do arrive.

You can register online for the Mailing Preference Service at or by phoning 020 7291 3310.

WARNING: Beware of people calling you claiming to be from the Mailing Preference Service asking for payment to complete your registration – this is itself a scam!!

Sign them up to the Royal Mail opt-out service

You can also opt out of Royal Mail Door to Door. This stops all unaddressed mail being delivered to their home via Royal Mail deliveries. If they wish to opt out, they should send their name and address to Freepost, Royal Mail Cusotmer Services or email their name and address to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  An opt-out form will then be sent to their address, which they must complete and return. More details on this here.

Scams - What to do

What should you do if you, or someone you know, has been scammed?

If you or someone you know has been the target of a scam, and fallen victim to it, you should report it to the police on 101 and to Action Fraud either through their online reporting tool or calling 0300 123 2040, as soon as possible.  The online form takes about 20 minutes to complete.

Action Fraud is the national online and financial fraud reporting database, which exists to build an accurate picture of frauds and scams, in order to help police and other agencies prevent more of these crimes taking place.

After reporting a scam, you’ll get a police crime reference number and the case will be referred to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau for analysis by the City of London Police. Not every report results in an investigation, but each helps build a clearer national picture of fraud.

You can also report phishing attempts where you have not lost any money or exposed your personal details.

However, Action Fraud cannot help you recover any money lost to fraud.

You can download more information using the links below: