Free call blocking device to protect older people against scammers

This month (June) is Scams Awareness Month – a yearly campaign led by Citizen’s Advice Bureau to educate people about the current scams including tips on how to spot fraud. CAB’s latest study shows that half of all Scots who are targeted by scams are over the age of 65 and of those affected, 61% were scammed via their landline.

Laura Jamieson from Trading Standards Scotland highlights new free call blocking device available to Scots aged 50 years and older that can help them limit nuisance calls.

Trading Standards Scotland (TSS) obtained funding from the Scottish Government for the provision of call blocking devices, which are allocated to older and vulnerable people in Scotland.

Nuisance calls, and more specifically scam calls, can greatly increase the risk of financial harm. Scam calls, offering lucrative returns on investments including fine wine and precious jewels, are designed to dupe consumers into parting with large sums of cash. Call blocking technology can prevent these getting through in the first place.

In addition, doorstep criminals are beginning to move into cold calling potential victims prior to turning up on their doorstep. Call blocking technology can help prevent the initial call getting through in the first place, preventing a later visit at the door where in some cases, victims have lost thousands of pounds.  This all helps to reduce fear of crime and the fear that someone is watching their home, which can be compounded if a cold call is indeed followed up with a visit.

With all of the above in mind, the technology can also reduce the need for affected individuals to move into residential care. Pressure to do so can stem from family members simply being too worried that the individual is no longer able to look after themselves, either as a result of being scammed or as they have experienced too many accidents.

The findings from the TSS call blocking project, which concluded in August 2015 demonstrated that on average older and vulnerable people in Scotland receive 60 nuisance and scam calls per month. This is around 58% of all the calls they receive. During the course of the study, 95% of the nuisance calls were blocked using the device, which is easy to install.

The call blocking device undeniably has a benefit to the well-being of vulnerable residents and their carers. People involved in the study, their families and their professional carers reported the benefits of having the device included:

  • people are able to live independently for longer;
  • the risk of financial harm was significantly reduced;
  • the risk of trips, falls and distraction accidents were reduced;
  • anxiety and stress was minimised for the study participants as well as their families and carers;
  • those living alone felt safer and more in control.

If you or someone you know would benefit from having a call blocker installed, contact Laura Jamieson on laura@cosla.gov.uk

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Being aware of Scams

June 2018 is Scams Awareness Month – an annual opportunity to raise awareness of and tackle these cruel crimes. We hear from Emily Liddle, Campaigns Officer at Citizens Advice Scotland about what to look out for.


Spam emails, cold callers and suspicious activity alerts from your bank; unfortunately, scams and fraud seem to have become a part of our daily lives.

We want to reduce the risk and impact of scams by raising awareness and encouraging people to take action – recognising, reporting and talking about the issues.

Although anyone can be victim to a scam, there are certain groups in society that are more frequently targeted by scammers. Whether this is a young person being targeted via a social media pop-up tying them into a subscription trap or an older person who receives an unexpected visit on their doorstep from a trusted provider without credentials.

Scams aren’t just a minor inconvenience to people. Aside from financial loss, they can cause distress, misery and even if a scam has been avoided, it can lead to widespread loss of confidence.

Reporting a Crime

Underreporting and stigma continue to be barriers in scams and fraud. There are so many types of scams, with new scam tactics consistently emerging and tricking consumers; as well as scams that we don’t know about which makes it very difficult to help, prevent and support those who have fallen victim.

Whilst scammers are becoming increasingly more sophisticated, groups of people continue to believe they would never fall victim, feeling they could easily spot a scam, or know how to act. It is this sense of confidence that scammers target and makes people vulnerable.

 

What should you look out for?

  • Beware of offers that use persuasive language to sell you a ‘once in a lifetime’ deal.
  • Be cautious providing bank details and personal information over the phone, especially if the caller has called to speak to you from an unknown number.
  • Always ask cold callers on your doorstep to provide credentials, don’t be afraid to check ID thoroughly. Never be afraid to say ‘no thank you’ and close the door.
  • Be wary of emails asking you to provide personal information or to login to an online site.
  • Look out for deals you click online that take you to separate website, is this site secure? Look for a small padlock symbol next to the address bar – this indicates the site is secure.

What should you do if you have been a scams target?

If you think you have been a victim of a scam or suspected scam, don’t be embarrassed. A scam could happen to anyone.

  • Get advice: from your local Citizens Advice Bureau or call Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06 who can pass details on to Trading Standards.
  • Report: always report scams or suspected scams to Police Scotland on 101
  • Tell: friends, neighbours and relatives of any scams you become aware of
  • Go online: for advice on spotting, reporting and protecting yourself against scams: visit citizensadvice.org.uk/scotland/sam2018/

• • 75 is the average age of reported scams victims• Those over-70 have the highest reported detriment from a number of different types of scams • A third of all victims (1)

Scams Awareness Month is a campaign run by Citizens Advice Scotland in partnership with a number of partner consumer organisations such as Trading Standards Scotland, Citizens Advice, Advertising Standards Agency and Government.

Scams: Let’s end the stigma and end the silence

Guest blogger Peter Kirwan, Communications Officer at Neighbourhood Watch Scotland, calls for an end to the stigma surrounding being a victim of scams.


“In the whole of the United Kingdom you are the one and only Big Winner of the Bank Cheque for 20,500.00”

“There’s over £1.4 million pounds at stake and you’re a guaranteed winner”

In the UK we lose billions every year to scams just like these with half the people living in Britain having been targeted at some point in their lives. Often scam mailers are persuasive and target the more vulnerable members of society who are added to a “suckers list” when they have responded to one scam. Once on this list, they are targeted by yet more scammers and may receive up to a hundred letters a day.

Today I want to ask you to help end the silence and the stigma around these scams.

Neighbourhood Watch Scotland

End the Silence

Many of these messages tell the reader they are in line for some huge windfall (through inheritance, lottery, a get-quick-rich scheme and so on) but to claim this they must pay a fee or give bank details. Crucially they often advise the person reading them to “tell no one,” claiming that other people would be jealous or try to steal from them.

Widow Ann McCorquodale was conned and then bullied into spending £40 a week on useless vitamins from a company called Vitamail. She was told that she was guaranteed a pay out of £10,000 but to participate in the prize draw she needed to make a purchase from them. There was, of course, no prize. Over the weeks that followed she received more letters assuring her it was on its way. In total she spent £6,000.

So how did this go on for three years?

A key part of how Vitamail got away with this is that they persuaded her not to discuss the letters with friends or family. This is typical in such cases.

“I didn’t tell a soul about what was going on, not even my family, it was my secret. I felt horribly guilty.”

We need to talk with our friends and family about these scams to uncover the cases where this is going on so that what happened to Ann doesn’t happen to others. We need to end the silence because it only helps the scammers.

Stop the Stigma

When having these conversations with friends and family, it’s important to make it clear that you will not be angry or think them foolish. A lot of people targeted by such scammers feel ashamed at being “taken in” by the first scam and worry about the reaction of friends and family. This increases their isolation which is exactly what the scammers want.

““I feel so stupid and ashamed that I could have been sucked in by this scam

So that people like Ann do not become repeatedly targeted in this way we need to change the climate in which scams are discussed. The reason people like Ann feel ashamed is simple: society openly shames people like them on a regular basis.

Wherever such scams are discussed there is always a vocal minority of people who cannot believe that they would ever fall for such schemes. In their minds, whoever does deserves their fate. This leads to comments like this (and far worse) which are all too common on social media.

Social Media

We need to stand up and challenge this message everywhere we encounter it.

Further information

Neighbourhood Watch Scotland has recently produced the latest edition of our Safer Communities Safer Scotland booklet. You can download a copy here

This contains, amongst other things, information on how to stay one step ahead of scammers who may try to contact you by phone, email, post or at your doorstep. If you’d like a print copy, these are free for registered Neighbourhood Watches. Registering a Neighbourhood Watch is also free. Go to our website, click join and follow the instructions.

For more information on spotting and stopping scams

To report fraud:

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