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CAB - 1 in 3 cold call scams are for fraudulent financial and professional services

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.

Citizens Advice yesterday launched Scams Awareness Month highlighting how scams can flourish if they go unreported.  The campaign, supported by Trading Standards, is urging people to get advice if they think they’ve been conned, and warn others to help stop scams from spreading.

The charity reveals almost half (46 per cent) of scams reported to local Citizens Advice 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 reveals that different types of scam use different methods to approach people:

  • Over a third (37 per cent) 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.
  • 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.
  • 4 out of 5 doorstep scams are to do with home improvements and household services. Common scams are aroundcentral heating, insulation and roofing, to gas and electricity supplies and people posing as tree surgeons. Cases include a man who was approached by a trader to fix the pointing on the roof, spending £300 in return for no work being done at all.
  • 2 in 5 internet scams are about personal goods and services including cosmetics that never arrive, beauty treatments that aren’t what they say on the tin and slimming pill subscription traps.  Citizens Advice heard from one woman who tried a ‘free trial’ of slimming pills, only to find that £200 had been taken from her account during the trial.​

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.”

CTSI chief executive Leon Livermore said:

"Protecting vulnerable people from scams is a task which trading standards take very seriously. We deal with heart breaking cases of financial loss and mental anguish.  Unfortunately a huge number of scams go unreported, leaving the path clear for these scammers to devastate lives and we urge citizens report fraudsters.

“Scams Awareness Month  reaches out to guide those most at risk, helping them to spot a fraudster, report them and avoid falling victim to these sinister schemes in the first place."

The most common ways people are approached by scammers are:

  1. Cold calling (41%),
  2. Internet (18%)
  3. Postal (14%)
  4. Telephone call initiated by the victim (9%)
  5. Doorstep, uninvited (5%).​

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).

Notes to editors

  1. 5,756 fraud and scam cases were seen by local Citizens Advice between April 2014 and March 2015. Client age was known in 91% of these cases. Data is based on the 5,221 cases where age was available.
  2. From April 2014 - March 2015, Citizens Advice dealt with 20,689 fraud and scam cases. This comprises 14,933 cases dealt with by the Consumer Service, and 5,756 cases handled by local Citizens Advice
  3. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  4. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  5. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk 
  6. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers. 
  7. Local Citizens Advice in England and Wales advised 2.5 million clients on 6.2 million problems in 2014/15. For full service statistics see our publication Advice trends.
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