Telephone scams have been on the rise across the country in recent years, much like the rise in internet scams. Thousands of people are targeted every day, with elderly people among the most at-risk from scammers.
Fraudsters are cunning in their phone-scam tactics and it’s not always easy or obvious to tell straight away whether it’s a scam. (Which)
In some of the latest examples of telephone scams, criminals have been posing as representatives from banks, GP surgeries, local councils, and even the police to try and get unsuspecting people to hand over money or personal information.
In other telephone scams, the fraudsters have been impersonating reputable companies, some of which you may have done business with in the past. Some scammers are even posing as personal alarm providers such as ourselves.
Barclays recently released a television advert portraying a telephone scammer obtaining a customer's bank details in a sneaky, clever manner. You can watch the advert below.
Today, we're going to take a look at what you can do to spot telephone scams and protect yourself from scammers. We'll discuss some of the most common forms of telephone scams, the tricks fraudsters use, and what they are aiming to achieve from the calls. We've also provided a handy infographic to break down some of the most important stuff.
Unknown Number - Don't Answer
The easiest way to avoid telephone scams is to avoid picking up the phone in the first place. If the number that appears on the screen isn't one you recognise, then don't answer. If it's someone trying to contact you legitimately, they'll probably leave a message or get in touch another way, such as a text, email, or letter.
Many of the fraudsters who are trying to contact you will have a private caller ID or have a unique telephone number that does not resemble a usual mobile number or area code.
If the fraudsters happen to leave a message - although this is most unheard of - the best thing to do would be to either ignore the message or to contact the actual company they are posing as. They can then confirm whether they have actually tried to get in contact with you. They can then make arrangements to warn the rest of their customers and even inform the police of any scams.
Stay safe with your telephone and only answer phone calls from your family and friends. If a legitimate caller leaves a message, you can always contact them once you have checked their telephone number.
Never Give Bank Details
Telephone scams often include callers posing as representatives from your bank or building society. They will call you on the phone and try to convince you that there is some kind of issue with your account.
Usually, they will say that somebody has tried to use your bank details online and that your account is at risk. They will then ask you to pass over your bank information - including your account number, sort-code and your pin.
In extreme cases, people posing as your bank will also suggest that you use their 'courier scheme'. This involves the 'bank' sending a courier to collect your 'hacked card' before arranging a new one to be delivered to you.
Of course, in reality, the scammers now have your bank card, your card details, your name and even your home address. This is everything they need to spend all of your hard-earned savings.
Your actual bank would never offer a courier service such as this or ask you to share your personal details over the phone. The simple solution here is to never give your bank details to anybody over the phone.
Don't Give Access To Your Computer
Other telephone scams which seem to be on the rise in the UK are to do with your laptop or computer. These scammers will give you a call and try to convince you that there is an issue with your device, such as a virus or hardware issue.
They say that they can solve this issue if you give them remote control of your PC over the phone. They will promise that they can fix the issue on your system by downloading a program or accessing your settings.
In reality, they are actually downloading a virus onto your system which will give them access to all of your passwords. In turn, this could lead them to your bank accounts and shopping accounts.
Just like your bank provider - your internet provider and I.T. manufacturers would never call you to tell you about a virus on your system.
One thing a telephone scammer hates is questions. They rush you through the details in the hope that you will just say yes to whatever they are asking. Remember they are only posing as a member of these big companies, so they won't know too much about the products themselves.
That's where you can really hit back and confuse the scammer. This will help prove to you that they are indeed fake and that you are involved in a telephone scam.
Ask questions about the company and all of the products. In all likelihood, they will begin to mix up their words as, of course, they don't actually know what they are talking about when it comes to the actual service.
This is an easy way of finding out whether they are legitimate or not.
Telephone Scams - End the phone call
As soon as you realise you are the target of a telephone scam, end the phone call right there and then. Hang up and end the discussion before you are tricked into any of the scams above.
You should also locate and block the telephone number if this is possible on your device. If this isn't possible, try to make a note of the number and pass it around to your friends and family so they can protect themselves too. It's also worth noting that you can sign up for certain call blocking options with your operator and filter out some of these calls in the future.
Another good tip would be to turn off and restart your mobile phone once you have hung up any scam calls. Some scammers use a system to stay on your telephone line so it is best to cover this. We also advise reading our handy internet safety guide for the elderly.
Find Out More
Stay Safe with Lifeline24
Now you know how to protect yourself from telephone scams, but what about staying safe and independent in your home? A Lifeline24 alarm can give you and your family peace of mind 24 hours a day. With an alarm in place, you'll be able to call for assistance with just the touch of a button at any time of day or night. Pressing your alarm button will raise an alert with our UK-based Response Team, who will speak to you through the alarm base unit and arrange whatever assistance you need.
You can also order a Lifeline Alarm online today. All our alarms are sent out with free next-day delivery if you order before the cut-off time.
Editor's Note: This article was updated on 7th July 2021 to reflect current information.