People of all ages and backgrounds get scammed. Scammers seek to exploit vulnerability – from the coronavirus pandemic to recessions, times of difficulty often see a corresponding increase in related scams and the cost-of-living crisis seems to be no different.
There are lots of different types of scams emerging and examples to look out for include:
- scammers pretending to be energy companies, luring people with “too good to be true” deals in order to steal their money
- fake sales representatives selling counterfeit shopping vouchers
- fraudsters sending out phishing emails pretending to offer and energy rebate or government support to obtain people’s personal information.
It’s important to be on your guard – if you’re not sure about something, take your time and get advice.
Our advice pages below give details of other scams to watch out for and where to go for advice along with details of the Friends Against Scams Initiative and Telford & Wrekin Trading Standards Accredited Trader Scheme.
Spotting a scam
It’s important to always keep an eye out for scams. They can and do affect anyone and some of the main warning signs of scams to look out for include:
- it seems too good to be true – like an email saying you’ve won a competition you don’t remember entering
- someone you don’t know contacts you unexpectedly
- you’re being urged to respond quickly so you don’t get time to think about it or talk to family and friends
- you've been asked to pay for something urgently or in an unusual way – for example by bank transfer or gift vouchers
- you’ve been asked to give away personal information.
If someone thinks they might be being scammed, they should get advice immediately. They can contact the Citizens Advice consumer service for help with what to do next, and report scams or suspected scams to Action Fraud.
How to protect yourself from scams
There are some simple steps people can take to help protect themselves from scams:
- don’t be rushed into making any quick decisions. It’s okay to take your time
- never give money or personal details, like passwords or bank details, to anyone you don’t know, trust or have only met online. If someone pressures you for these, it’s most likely a scam
- before you buy anything, check the company or website you’re using. Read reviews from different websites, search for the company’s details on Companies House, and take a look at their terms and conditions
- pay by debit or credit card. This gives you extra protection if things go wrong
- be suspicious. Scammers can be very smart. They can appear like a trusted business or government official, have a professional website and say all the right things.
- take your time to work out if this is a real organisation. Ask them for ID or contact the organisation on a number you know and trust
- don’t click on or download anything you don’t trust
- make sure your antivirus software is up to date
- keep your online accounts secure:
- use a strong password for email accounts that you don't use anywhere else. Choosing three random words is a good way to create a strong and easy to remember password. You can also add in numbers and symbols. If you’re worried about remembering lots of different passwords you can use a password manager
- some websites let you add a second step when you log in to your account - this is known as ‘two-factor authentication’. This makes it harder for scammers to access your accounts
- if you’re not sure about something, get advice from a trusted source.
What to do if someone has been scammed
If someone has been scammed, there are 3 steps they need to take:
Protect themselves from further risks
There are things they can do to stop things getting worse. They should contact their bank immediately to let them know what’s happened. They should also change any relevant log-in details, and check for viruses if they were scammed on a computer.
Check if they can get their money back
If they’ve lost money because of a scam, there might be ways they can get it back. Again, make sure they tell their bank what happened straight away. If they’ve paid for something by card, bank transfer, Direct Debit or PayPal, then depending on the circumstances they might be able to help them get their money back.
Report the scam
Reporting scams helps authorities stop the criminals responsible, and protects others from being scammed. Anyone who’s been scammed should:
- Call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133. They will then pass on details of the scam to Trading Standards, and can offer further advice.
- Report the scam to Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud. They'll also give them a crime reference number, which can be helpful if you need to tell your bank you've been scammed
It’s also important for us to all talk about our experiences with family and friends. By letting them know what’s happened they can be prepared, and together we can put a stop to scams.
Friends Against Scams
To learn more about scams and to help raise awareness, we invite you to take a stand against scams and check out the National Trading Standards Scams Team 'Friends Against Scams' campaign.
The Friends Against Scams Team look to tackle the problem of postal, telephone and doorstep scams. These type of scams are often targeted specifically at disadvantaged consumers or those in periods of vulnerability. If just one scam is responded to, details are likely to be entered onto a list which can be used by other scammers. These are known as ‘suckers lists’.
People are being encouraged to protect their family, friends and neighbours by getting involved with Friends Against Scams. If you would like to be a Friend Against Scams you can complete a free 20 minute on-line training session, which provides information on different types of scams; how to spot them; where to report suspected scams and get help.
Are you aware of 'Think Jessica'? - Telford & Wrekin Council Trading Standards support work carried out by Think Jessica to raise awareness of scams. We have copies of the Think Jessica “Don’t fall for a Scam” booklet which gives information on the tricks that scammers use and how to keep safe. These are available at libraries and community centres in Telford. If your organisation would like copies of this booklet please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trading Standards Accredited
You can also avoid being the victim of scam by using a business you know you can trust. Take a look at our Trading Standards Accredited (TSA) website where you will find details of local businesses who are signed up to the scheme. All businesses are checked by Trading Standards and must have relevant insurances, they also sign up to the TSA Code of Practice. In the unlikely event of a problem, the TSA team will work with the customer and member to agree a resolution.
The website is easy to use, search for a member by business category or there’s a handy A-Z. Simply enter your postcode, choose a trade area and your search results will be listed based on members nearest you. If you do not have access to the internet please telephone our contact centre on 01952 381818 and we will carry out the search for you. You don’t have to be a Telford and Wrekin resident, everyone is welcome to use the TSA scheme.
Reduce the number of unwanted callers knocking at your door by displaying a copy of our no cold calling sign. Download and print off a copy at home and display it where someone intending to knock at your door would easily spot it. Alternatively, pick up a ‘self sticking’ copy from your local library or community centre.
Other useful links to help you beat the scammers:
- Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) - guidance on financial related scams and how to be a ScamSmart investor
- The Pensions Regulator - pension related scams and how to avoid them
- Get Safe Online - wide ranging advice to stay safe online
- The Online Rip-off Tip-off – Avoid sneaky sales tactics
- Take Five - To Stop Fraud | To Stop Fraud
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