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Tips for spotting financial crime: A guide for carers

Despite growing awareness of financial and phishing scams, the number of scams and related crimes out there is growing by the day. From scam text messages and scam emails to phone calls and links online, phishing criminals are becoming more and more creative with the ways they attack vulnerable people.

As carers, it’s important to be prepared to spot the signs and protect vulnerable service users from these crimes. From understanding what phishing scams are and the most common ones around, to learning how to spot them, how to report scam texts and more, we’ve put together a guide for carers to help you protect yourself and those in your care.

What are phishing scams?

By definition, scams are an illegal act of fraud that has the core purpose of gaining something – usually money – from the victim. According to Age UK, over £190 billion is lost annually to fraud, with an estimated £6.8 billion of that coming from individuals. Scams can come in all different shapes and sizes, disguised as messages from a bank, a well-known brand, and in some cases, even fake profiles disguised as friends on social media.

Common phishing scams to watch out for

While there is seemingly no end to the number of scams out there today, there are a few particular types that seem to be the most common. Despite being common and arguably well known, those who are older or more vulnerable are still susceptible to falling for them. The most common financial scams include:

  • Banking and online financial account scams
  • Fake FCA or PayPal emails, letters and phone calls
  • Pension and investment scams
  • Foreign money transfer scams
  • Insurance and warranty scams
  • Royal mail scam texts
  • Loan fees
  • Money transfer scams
  • Fake charity scams

    All of the above, if disguised in the right ways, can seem legitimate in most cases, which is why people still fall for them today. A sense of pressure can be put onto the victim with threats of fees and fines, or by catching someone out at the wrong time – such as with insurance-based scams (e.g. car accident claims)

COVID-19 scams

Over the past year or so since COVID-19 sent the UK into lockdown, scammers have been approaching their victims in new ways. Fraudsters have capitalised on the fear, confusion, and uncertainty surrounding the virus and are using this as a way to extract and collect personal and financial information from vulnerable people across the country. These can include anything from paying for tests (NHS tests are free) to fake vaccine application forms.

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How to spot phishing scams

There are a few tell-tale signs that carers can both look out for and teach their clients to look out for, to help them avoid falling victim to phishing scams. Identifying a scam isn’t always easy, so it’s often best to adopt a mentality of assuming that anything suspicious is a scam and contacting any companies (such as the client’s bank) directly using the number listed on the official websites.

Some things you can look out for to spot phishing scams include:

  • Spelling and grammatical errors
  • Sending address errors
  • Unusual links
  • Requests for personal details; no company will ask for this over email, text or over the phone
  • Pressure to make quick decisions

How to avoid scams

As well as spotting phishing scams, you can help your clients avoid them in several ways too, though the most recommended and often fool proof method is to simply treat any unexpected or unusual communication with extra caution.

In many cases, banks and other financial bodies are unlikely to call directly and if they do, they are likely to understand the caution. Ensure that your clients always contact these bodies using separate, official numbers if they’re different to the one provided, or check the number against the official contact information.

Some other tips to bear in mind include:

  • Take an approach of never giving out any personal information unless done directly with the company safely.
  • Keep clients’ virus protection software up to date where possible.
  • Advise them against answering unexpected calls, letters, emails, or unknown companies knocking at the door.
  • Keep passwords strong and change them regularly. You can work with your client to do this and help them with remembering any passwords on an ongoing basis.
  • Check the FCA register for any unknown financial companies.

What to do when you spot a scam

If you’ve spotted a scam or believe that your client has been the victim of fraud, it’s important to take action quickly. The Action Fraud phishing scams advice suggests reporting the scam to Action Fraud immediately, using the reporting tool or the FCA Scam Smart website. You can also call them on 0300 123 2040 on your client’s behalf.

It’s also important to cancel any payments if the scam has already been done by helping the client to contact their bank and ask for a direct debit to be cancelled. In some cases, the bank may be able to block any recent payments from going out.

Be aware of any follow-up scams, such as companies offering to get the money back for your client, as these are other common types of scams that could mean they are hit twice.

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