No one likes to feel that they have wasted or, even worse, been conned out of their money. Unfortunately, there are plenty of situations in which you can be acting in good faith and suddenly find you’ve come off worse from a transaction. We use the word ‘scam’ to indicate a dishonest or fraudulent scheme designed to cheat someone. It could be anything from buying products or services, to making investments or becoming involved in apparently failsafe business propositions.
Older people can be an attractive target for scammers, not least because they are more likely to have easily accessible savings than younger people. Some older people are isolated and may not have anyone to go to for advice. Also, the older generation may be less likely to have access to the internet as a checking tool, although this is increasingly less true. Most of us can protect ourselves from scams if we have the right information and advice. What about carers, friends or relatives? If you are concerned that someone you know is being tricked, or is buying unsuitable products and services, you can look out for warning signs such as unusual amounts of post or evidence of large cash withdrawals; offer advice and support – reassure the person that this is a common problem and can happen to anyone.
A scam can mean anything from criminal fraud to sharp, but legal, selling practices. Perhaps a more relevant question is ‘Can I get my money back?’ Whether the scheme was legal or illegal, the answer is likely to be ‘no’. Even well-known companies may direct you to the small print if you later query your position. Other, less reputable sellers may simply disappear. Depending on the circumstances, police or Trading Standards are more likely to try to prevent future scams than recover money that has been lost.
If an exciting offer seems too good to be true, think about the following warning signs and ask yourself if it is a scam:
• Was the offer unsolicited?
• Do you have to respond quickly? What’s the rush?
• Do you have to pay for a prize or ‘free’ gift?
• Do you have to ring a premium rate number (one starting with ‘09’)?
• Are you being asked for your bank or credit card details?
• Is the business reluctant to give you its address or contact details?
• Are you being asked to keep the offer confidential?
There’s nothing wrong with being sceptical – especially before signing anything or handing over any money. If the worst happens and you are a victim of a scam, or if you want advice on how to protect yourself, contact us at Age Concern Brighton, Hove & Portslade Information & Advice Service and we can put you in touch with agencies such as Consumer Direct or Action Fraud for help.
If you are over 50, you can phone Age Concern Brighton, Hove and Portslade Information and Advice Service on 01273 720603, Monday to Friday 10am to 4pm.