Phone scams are a common way for criminals to try and con people out of money these days. More often than not, it will begin with what seems like a cold call. The difference with a scam call is that the person on the other end of the phone won’t be afraid to use all sorts of tricks to get their hands on your personal or financial information.
Common phone scams to look out for
It isn’t always easy to tell a scam call from a harmless cold call. But there are a few typical types that you should be aware of:
1. Bank scams
Someone will get in touch claiming to be from your bank. They may say there’s a problem with your card or your account – or your card has been cloned and your money isn’t safe – and they need your help to resolve the issue.
They could ask for your account and card details – including your pin number. Or advise you to transfer your money into a so-called "safe account". But the reality is that your bank would never do any of this, so hang up immediately and then contact your bank to inform them of the scam. They will then launch their own investigation (usually in conjunction with the Police) to trace the criminals.
2. Compensation calls
Someone from a fake "company" may ask about a "recent car accident" you’ve had, and offer you compensation. But even if you’ve had an accident, you should never engage with these calls. Instead, you should get in touch with your insurance company via the number listed on your policy (or their website).
3. Computer repair scams
These come from callers pretending to be from helpdesks at IT companies, such as Microsoft. They may say your computer has a virus, and you need to pay for their anti-virus software. But what they’re actually doing is trying to get you to install spyware on your computer in order to access your personal details. Genuine IT companies would never contact customers this way and offer a service like this.
4. Anti-scam calls (including the Telephone Preference Service scam)
The caller could claim to be from a charity supporting victims of scams, or a company selling anti-scam technology. Recently, there have been cases of calls demanding money to renew your Telephone Preference Service (TPS) registration, or upgrade to an “improved” version – but TPS is a free service, so make sure you don’t fall for it.
5. Number spoofing
Some scammers use technology to make it look like they’re calling from an official telephone number – for example, a bank or utility company. But if you’re unsure whether they’re genuine, just hang up and call your bank to check.
If possible, try and call them from a different phone – because scammers can keep the phone line connected. If you don’t have access to another phone, make sure you wait at least 10 minutes before you call the organisation directly.
What should you do if you get a scam call?
Unfortunately, elderly people are frequent victims of scammers. This is why it’s so important to make sure you and your relatives are aware of these kinds of phone scams, and what to do to protect yourself and your elderly relatives.
- Hang up as soon as you feel harassed – even if it makes you feel rude. You should never be intimidated into making a purchase, giving out personal information (especially any financial details) or completing surveys.
- Never give out personal details or financial information over the phone – including your bank account details or your PIN, even if the caller says they’re from your bank.
- Call the organisation to check – if you’re not sure if the caller is really from the organisation they say they are, it’s worth calling the organisation they claim to be calling from, such as your bank. Always use a number you have found yourself (from a letter, statement, or the website) and never use any number given to you by the caller.
Remember: If in any doubt, just hang up, wait 10 minutes, then call your bank on a number you have found yourself.