Protecting vulnerable against common scams this winter

Many vulnerable adults rely on others to help them with basic day-to-day living, which is why it is important we look out for others and know the common signs and causes of harm.

Across Forth Valley, adult support and protection partners work to engage with staff and residents to highlight current and emerging risks. Falkirk’s new Trading Standards Officer, Bryan Mackie has gathered a list of common scams and dangers to be aware of this winter:

1. Financial Harm

Financial harm can have a devastating effect on both the person harmed and their family members. Victims can become isolated from their families, or feel embarrassed about being duped and losing their money – no matter how small or large a sum.

Even the loss of a relatively small amount of money to scammers can affect a person’s wellbeing. People who commit fraud and scams can be very plausible and convincing, they see this as their job and are well practiced.

Scammers have no morals and lose no sleep over defrauding their victims out of hundreds, or even tens of thousands of pounds.

How to avoid: Know what financial harm can look or sound like, and report any suspected cases to Police Scotland on 101 (frauds, scams, cybercrime) or 999 in an emergency. You can also review Police Scotland’s Little Big Book of Scams to learn more.

2. Cost of Living Payment Scam:

The second payment for the cost of living payment has recently been received by millions of residents throughout the UK.  There is evidence of people being contacted by text message or e-mail and asked to apply for this payment.

The message often includes a hyperlink, leading to a fake website which asks users to input their banking details, promising the energy rebate to be paid into your account.

How to avoid: If you are eligible, you will be paid automatically. You do not need to apply.

3. Doorstep (Roofing):

Heavy rain, high-winds, and storms are more common during the winter months – leading a rise in roof repairs and unfortunately, related scams.

Doorstep crime, involving bogus workmen, is a common way criminals can attempt to cash in and make some money during the winter.

Fraudsters will drive around areas looking for signs of damage, in particular loose slates or tiles and damage to guttering.  Once identified and the resident approached and the damage has been “inspected” this will inevitably lead to further damage being identified by the “Workmen”.

Further requests will be made for money to be paid up front, in order for materials to be sourced. Pressure will be applied, with the criminals urging households to complete work before the next batch of bad weather arrives. Once the money is handed over it is unlikely you will see them or your money again.

How to avoid:  Never engage with cold callers, and don’t let anyone into your home who you don’t know Request they return when family members of friends are available to be there. Advise them that you already have someone who attends to all your DIY around the home. Always remember, you are in control.

4. Banking Scam

Banking scams often begin with a call from someone claiming to be from your bank. The caller will be extremely friendly and may even know some information about your account which will give the impression that the call is genuine.

To protect your money, the caller will claim they need to create a “safe account” advising you need to transfer funds from your genuine account into the newly created one.  Once funds have been transferred, it is highly unlikely that you will hear from the caller again and your cash will almost certainly be lost.

How to avoid:  Have you heard of 159? If you think someone is trying to trick you into handing over money or personal details: Stop, hang up and call 159 to speak directly to your bank.

159 is the memorable, secure number that connects you directly to your bank if you think you might be being scammed. 159 works in the same way as 101 for the police or 111 for the NHS. It’s the number you can trust to get you through to your bank, every time.

As part of this process, you will be asked to confirm some details – but as you have phoned 159, you know you are speaking to a trusted source. 159 will never call you. Only a fraudster will object to you calling 159.

This is just a very brief sample of the scams that go on throughout Scotland, however it must be stressed that no area, or person is immune from scammers. Recent survey’s show all that age groups of society are now falling victim to various methods of financial harm.

Should you require any further information on fraud or scams, trends and prevention please do not hesitate Falkirk’s trading standards officer, Bryan Mackie.