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Whittlesey and District Neighbourhood Watch

Whittlesey and District Neighbourhood Watch

Creating safer, stronger and active communities

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.

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.

STATISTICS

Different types of online fraud

30

People targeted by online scammers

62%

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…

Telephone Scams

Scammers will call you on the telephone to obtain your personal details or to persuade you to send them money for some sort of transaction. These scams are known as ‘vishing’ and are becoming more prevalent. Research by Citizens Advice suggests that scams experienced by people aged 65 and over are more likely to occur through phone calls, while younger people are more likely to experience online or email fraud.

Investment Scams

Investment scams can originate online, over the phone or in the post, and usually involve offers of worthless, overpriced or non-existent shares in unregulated products such as wine, diamonds or land.

The Financial Conduct Authority warns that over-55s are at greatest risk of investment fraud.  These are high-loss scams with the average loss being over £32,000, according to Action Fraud. Around three-quarters of victims of investment fraud are men with the average age of 65.  Those with savings of more than £10,000 are the most likely to fall victim to scammers.

STATISTICS

Average loss

32K

Average age of victims

65

Victims who are men

75%

Pension scams

Pension liberation scams target older people by offering to convert pension benefits to cash benefits. Victims pay high fees and often face tax bills as a result of such schemes. These scams have become particularly relevant since the 2015 changes to pensions access made it possible for a proportion of pensions to be withdrawn in cash.

The Pensions Regulator has published a leaflet warning about the signs of pension scams and giving five top tips on how to protect yourself.  You can download it here.

Scammers usually cold-call but contact can also come by email, post, word of mouth or even at a seminar or exhibition.  Callers may pretend they aren’t cold-calling you by referring to a brochure or an email they sent you – that’s why it’s important you know how to spot the other warning signs.

They can use various different tactics at different stages of the process:

The pre-caller will get in touch to obtain your personal details, by inviting you to complete a survey or offering to send you something in the post.

The opener will strike up a relationship with you, appearing friendly and knowledgeable, and make you feel special.

The loader will draw you in, offering you an investment opportunity that appears great.

The closer will pressure you into parting with your money by warning that the offer won’t be available again and that time is running out.

The recovery room: After you’ve lost your money, they’ll sell your details to a recovery firm, or pose as a separate firm, offering to help you get your money back for an upfront fee.

Mail Scams

Scammers commonly contact people through the post. Some victims, particularly older people, receive hundreds of scam letters a week. Common mail scams include lottery and prize draw scams, Nigerian letter scams, clairvoyant scams and catalogue scams.

Older people are especially vulnerable to mail scams because many still receive and pay their bills by post, shop using paper catalogues and correspond by letter.  Not only that, the arrival of the day’s post can be a highlight for a lonely older person, giving them something to do.