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How to Protect Yourself From Scams in Old Age

In the UK, an older person becomes victim of fraud every 40 seconds (1).

Fortunately, more and more pensioners are becoming aware of certain scams that target people of their age, such as email scams.

However, there are other scams that are more overlooked, including pension scams and phone scams.

When discussing the safety of the elderly, we often focus on traditional crime such as burglary.

However, it is three times more likely that someone will be a victim of fraud in the UK than burglary which is why it is so important for you to learn how to spot scams and protect yourself against them (2).

It is possible that you have already been a victim of fraud, as 53% of over-65s in the UK believe they have been targeted (3).

Most of these individuals managed to ignore the scam, but of the ones who responded to a scam, 70% lost money.

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What Types Of Scams Should the Elderly Be Wary Of?

Below, we outline the types of scams elderly people should be aware of:

1. Pension Scams

There are many different types of pension scams, but one of the most common involves elderly people being contacted and advised to cash in their pension and give the money to the scammer.

The good news is that there is now a ban on cold calling about pensions, so you are less likely to be a victim of this type of fraud nowadays. However, if someone does contact you about this, be wary of any references to tax loopholes and time-sensitive offers.

You should always take your time with financial decisions, and legitimate companies will allow you to do this. If you believe you are being targeted by a scammer, hang up the phone and seek financial advice from a reputable firm.

2. Doorstep Scams

Doorstep scams involve a scammer coming to your house and trying to get money from you, often by entering your home and either intimidating you or subtly manipulating you.

Something to be aware of is that there are many different kinds of doorstep scams, so you must be wary when anyone approaches you at home and tries to get you to spend your money.

Some common examples to look out for are: being asked to donate to charity on the spot, being asked to complete a survey, being asked to help someone who is unwell or in need of money, and being offered a service on your property that is not necessary.

It goes without saying that not everyone who approaches your home is intending to scam you, so it may be the case that a genuine charity is requesting your money.

However, there is no harm in taking your time and not handing them money on the spot. What’s more, there are usually ways to check that someone is legitimate. For example, if they claim to work for a charity, you can ask for their charity number.

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3. Lottery Scams

People who are targeted by lottery scams usually receive a phone call informing them they have won the lottery, but that they must send money in order to receive the funds. The fraudster will claim that the money is for processing fees and taxes.

It is easy to avoid falling victim to lottery scams for various reasons. Firstly, many older people do not take part in the lottery, so they should immediately know that a lottery phone call is fake.

Secondly, no lottery companies will contact you to tell you about your earnings. Finally, you will never have to pay to access your earnings.

Something else to keep in mind is that these scams often thrive off secrecy, as the fraudster requests that the older person keeps the win private.

Again, if you did win the lottery, you would not be asked to keep this a secret from your loved ones, so this should be an immediate red flag that you are being scammed.

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4. Home Improvement Scams

Home improvement scams are often a form of doorstep scam, but not always. The tricky thing about this scam is that there are genuine home improvement companies that use door-to-door marketing to get customers.

This means you have to be very proactive in analysing companies that come to your door and find out whether they are genuine. The best way to do this is to ask for the company’s details without accepting an offer or paying any money.

Make a mental note of how the employee looks; some positive signs are that they look presentable, they are wearing a branded uniform, and they are driving a branded vehicle.

Then, when the individual has left, you can begin to do your research into the company. Check that they have a reputable website with a phone number and address, look at their reviews, try to get in touch with previous customers, and make sure the employees are DBS checked.

Generally, the safest way to have home improvements is to ask loved ones for their recommendations, so you may be able to avoid doorstep offers altogether.

If you don’t have any luck with your friends and family, you could also post on social media, but be sure to check the validity of any suggested companies.

5. Phone Call Scams

As the name suggests, a phone call scam is when someone contacts you by phone and tries to get money from you, usually by offering a service such as computer repairs.

In this example, they will get you to download software that allows them to access your personal details.

Another example is a bank phone call scam; the fraudster will ask for your bank details. You must remember that your bank will never contact you unexpectedly and ask for your details.

Many pensioners, and people of all ages, have been victim of compensation phone call scams.

The scammer tells you you are entitled to compensation for an accident you have been in. Instead of risking this scam, you should contact your insurance company if you have been in an accident.

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6. Postal Scams

Many older people receive documents in the post that try to get them to give their personal details away or pay money to an unreputable company.

One common postal scam is a letter claiming that the recipient is entitled to money from a deceased loved one’s inheritance. It is very unlikely that these letters would be legitimate, but if you are unsure, check the scam on the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

An easier scam to detect is a hard luck scam. You will receive a letter from someone claiming to need money from you for something like an operation or to escape poverty. These stories are never genuine, so you should ignore any letters of this kind.

We mentioned lottery scams earlier, and it is important to be aware that they can be a form of postal scam as well as a telephone scam. The same tips apply to this situation – remember that you will never be contacted like this if you do win the lottery, and do not respond to the letter.

Please call our 24-Hour Helpline: 0330 058 1579

7. Email Scams

Email scams are often fairly easy to notice once you know what to look out for. Some common features of email scams are: unprofessional email addresses, suspicious links, and misspellings.

If you ever get an email claiming you have an issue with an online account, such as incomplete payment information or suspicious activity, be wary of this and do not respond to the email or click any links.

The best thing to do is to look up common email scams, as there are often very similar scams going around at the same time, so you will quickly be able to find out whether the email is legitimate. Then, remember that reputable companies will not usually ask for personal details via email unexpectedly.

You can report any suspicious emails to if you are living in the UK and you are unsure about the legitimacy of an email.

Finally, get in touch with the company yourself and find out whether the email was legitimate. For example, if the email claims to be from Paypal, you can easily call or email Paypal and ask whether your account information is up to date.

Alternatively, ignoring these emails is often worthwhile as it is very rare that they are legitimate. Some companies, especially banks, will even tell you that they will never contact you to ask for specific things (e.g. payment information), so you will know to ignore any emails that request this.

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8. Online Shopping Scams

If you come across a website with extremely low prices or exceptional discounts, always be wary that it may not be legitimate. This is even more suspicious if the website does not appear professional – for example, there may be misspellings or no contact information.

Trustpilot is a great website that can help you to find out whether a website is legitimate or not. It is based on customer reviews, so it is not foolproof, but if there are many bad reviews, you may decide that it is not worth purchasing anything off the site.

If the website is not well known enough to be on Trustpilot, still search the name on Google and find out whether anyone has posted any reviews, and check the website URL. If you cannot find much information and the site seems suspicious, it may be best to avoid buying from there.

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9. Investment Scams

Investment scams can take place over the phone or by email. Fraudsters will encourage you to invest your money, and they are very likely to encourage you to do this immediately rather than leaving and coming back to them with a decision.

If an investment sounds too good to be true, it is probably a scam. This may look like the caller telling you that their interest rates are the lowest around, there are no risks involved with investing, and the offer is only available to you and no one else.

As always, when you are contacted about investing, do your research and take your time with your decision, rather than being pressured to make an immediate decision. Make the most of the FCA warning list to check out whether an investment opportunity is a scam (4).

Please call our 24-Hour Helpline: 0330 058 1579

10. Online Romance Scams

Though you do not have to be elderly to fall victim to an online romance scam, it is often older people who are swindled by these scams. They are encouraged to keep private about their online relationship, and they are eventually asked to send money to the scammer.

Worryingly, these scammers can invest a lot of time into deceiving older people, so some older people are in an online relationship for months before they are asked for any money, and by this point, they trust the scammer and do not believe they are being used for their money.

You should always be very wary of getting into a relationship with anyone online, especially if they refuse to video call you or come to see you in person, and they ask you to keep your relationship private.

Do not send money to people you do not know in real life, be careful about the personal information you share with them, and remain open with your loved ones so that they can advise you if they believe the situation is suspicious.

11. Health Scams

Some older people are victims of health fraud, which usually involves purchasing medication that is promised to be a ‘miracle cure’, or purchasing extremely cheap medication from an illegitimate online pharmacy.

This is another situation that TrustPilot is useful for, as any reputable online pharmacy will have a good rating on TrustPilot and any other popular review websites.

You should also keep in mind that anything offering a miracle cure is very suspicious, as medication is not one-size-fits-all and you usually need to trial different things before seeing a result.

If the miracle cure is for something that does not have a known cure, you will immediately know that you are looking at a scam. Be wary of websites offering cures for things like baldness and cancer.

Please call our 24-Hour Helpline: 0330 058 1579

How to Spot a Scam Against Pensioners – What are the Signs?

Below, we provide some guidance in helping elderly people spot scams before it is too late:

1. Someone asking for your bank details

As we mentioned earlier, your bank will not get in touch with you for your bank details or payment information, so never provide this over the phone or by email to anyone who asks. If you are emailed, ignore the email and report it, and if you are contacted by phone, hang up the phone.

2. Someone asking you to be secretive

It is very likely that a scammer will ask you to be secretive about their offers, as they know that if your loved ones knew about it, they could discourage you from getting involved. A reputable company will not mind if you involve other people in your decision.

3. Someone asking you to make an immediate decision

Similar to the previous point, reputable businesses will not expect you to make a decision on the spot, so we always recommend taking a step back and thinking about what you want to do before you offer money to anyone. If someone is asking for money immediately, they are very likely to be a fraudster.

4. Someone being unprofessional

Scammers often, but not always, give themselves away with unprofessional language and conduct. This often includes generic greetings, misspellings, and unusual email addresses. If the company that contacts you is well known, check their email address and URL against the official contact information.

Please call our 24-Hour Helpline: 0330 058 1579

How to Protect Yourself From Scams in Old Age

Below, we provide some information to help you better protect yourself from scams in old age:

1. Protecting yourself from online scams

The more educated you are about online scams, the easier it will be to identify them and report them. Some computer training courses include internet safety training, and even if they don’t, you would be able to pose questions about internet safety to the training provider.

Age UK offers courses like these all over the UK. Use their search tool to find one near you.

Something else you should do is protect your devices as much as possible. Firstly, make sure you update your devices on a regular basis, and renew your security software when it runs out. You should also create strong passwords and change them regularly. It is a good idea to have private social media accounts to prevent scammers from contacting you.

If you receive any suspicious messages online, do not open them or click on any links. Use the information we have given you to decide whether the message seems legitimate, and report it if necessary.

Please call our 24-Hour Helpline: 0330 058 1579

2. Protecting yourself from telephone scams

If you register with the Telephone Preference Service, you can escape calls from cold callers (1). It is very easy to do this – all you need to do is fill out the TPS online registration form or call 0330 058 1579. This significantly reduces the chances that you will be victim to a telephone scam.

If you do receive a call from an unknown individual or company, do not give any of your personal information to them, and hang up if they request anything suspicious or if they seem unprofessional. If they are legitimate, they will find another way of contacting you.

Finally, do research into common phone scams so that you are equipped to identify them and avoid them. If you have had a suspicious phone call, research the company and speak to your family and friends about whether they have received a similar call.

3. Protecting yourself from in-person scams

As always, do not give your personal information away when you are not familiar with the company, or they are requesting something private like your payment information. Never make a payment on the spot; hang up the phone and give yourself time to do research and speak to a financial adviser.

You should also ask for a written offer so that you have proof if you are scammed. If the company refuses to do this, you know that they are likely to be scammers.

To make it less likely that you are targeted by scammers, put up a ‘no cold callers’ sign on your door, or ask a family member to do this for you. Do not let anyone into your home if you do not know them and they are trying to sell you something.

Please call our 24-Hour Helpline: 0330 058 1579

4. Protecting yourself from postal scams

Much like the TPS, you can register for the Mailing Preference Service to avoid being contacted with unsolicited offers (6).

However, if you are not registered with MPS, the best thing to do is to stay updated on common postal scams, know which red flags to look out for, and rip up any documents that contain your personal details after reading them.

How to Protect the Elderly From Scams

Below, we provide guidance to help the loved-one better protect their elderly relatives from scams:

1. Talk to your elderly loved ones about scams

If you want to protect your elderly loved ones from scams, the best thing you can do is be open with them about scams and help them to know what to look out for. You could also offer to read any suspicious letters, answer calls from companies, or read emails for them if they are not confident with detecting scams.

2. Help your elderly loved ones out practically

It is also a good idea to help your elderly loved ones out practically, especially if they are not comfortable with using the internet.

Help them to create strong passwords and encourage them to change their passwords regularly, and maybe even offer to check on their finances periodically if this is something they are comfortable with.

In terms of helping them avoid in-person scams, you could put up a ‘no cold callers’ sign on their door and encourage them to not answer the door to anyone who is trying to sell something.

Please call our 24-Hour Helpline: 0330 058 1579

What to Do If You Have Been Scammed

Below, we provide some guidance if you have already been a victim of a scam:

1. Get as much evidence as possible

The more evidence you have of the scam, the easier it will be to report it and ensure other people aren’t scammed. If the fraudster came to you in person, try to remember what their company was called and what the individual looked like.

If they didn’t provide you with a business card, this will be tricky, but you may have footage of them if you have a doorbell camera.

If you were victim to a postal scam, it is as simple as keeping the letter or taking a photo of it, and for email scams, screenshot the email. For phone scams, refer to your call log as evidence.

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2. Report the scam

Next, it is very important that you report the scam. If you have given money to someone in the last 24 hours or they live in your local area, call the local authorities on 101 to report this (7).

In any other case, you can report the scam to Citizen’s Advice. You have to fill out a fairly lengthy online form, but this will be worth it if it prevents other people from being scammed.

You can easily report scam websites to the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) by entering the URL and giving information about the scam (8).

Another organisation for reporting fraud is Action Fraud (9). All you need to do is register with them and inform them of the scam, and you will receive updates about your report.

3. Check your credit score

If you have been a victim of fraud, it is possible that your credit score will be affected, and the scammer will have applied for certain accounts that you will be unfamiliar with. You can discover this by requesting a credit report.

If your credit score has been affected, we would advise you to get in touch with Experian’s Victim of Fraud support team as they can help you to clear up your credit report (10).

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4. Reset your passwords

An obvious tip is to reset your passwords if you have been a victim of an online scam. You should do this regularly anyway, but it is particularly important if you believe someone may have accessed your online accounts recently.

5. Update your anti-virus software

To ensure you are as protected as possible, make sure you have anti-virus software on your computer, and that it is always up to date. Be wary of the software you download, as there is fake anti-virus software out there that usually appears as a pop-up on your computer.

6. Inform your bank

If you have given your bank details away, it is vital that you get in touch with your bank and inform them, as they will be able to help you to protect your funds and avoid scams in the future.

Your bank will investigate the fraud, and if there is enough evidence, you may be able to get your money back. This is why it’s so important to keep any evidence of contact with a scammer.

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Do Scams Only Target the Elderly?

No, scams do not solely target the elderly. The reason we often associate scams with older people is that they are often more vulnerable to them, especially if the scams take place online.

This is simply because older people are less likely to be aware of online scams, and if they are not comfortable with using technology, they may find it harder to avoid scams.

Even in-person scams tend to target older people, as they are more likely to welcome people into their home as a way to be polite, whereas younger people tend to be more wary of the dangers of doing this.

What’s more, older people may be less aware of the current reputable companies, so they may be more likely to accept the services of an unreputable business.

Having said that, anyone can be a victim of a scam, so it is important for people of all ages to stay educated on popular scams, learn how to identify scammers, and know how to report a scam.

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Overall, our best suggestions are:

1. Be tentative when you are contacted

Do not accept offers immediately. Instead, be very tentative about the offers you receive, and consider whether they seem legitimate. Do not assume that an organisation is trustworthy before you have confirmed this through research.

In case someone approaches you on your doorstep, get a chain so that you do not have to completely open the door to them, and you can close the door quickly if you need to.

2. Do not give away your personal information freely

This goes with our previous point, but do not offer your personal information to someone you do not trust. Keep your bank details private, and do not tell someone where you live unless you know you are dealing with a reputable company.

3. Take time to make decisions

No genuine company will force you to make a decision about an offer on the same day. Take as much time as you need to think about whether you want to accept or not. If the offer is only available for a short time period, pay attention to the fact that this may be a red flag for a scam.

4. Inform your family of your decisions

It is never wise to keep quiet when you are contacted by a seller, so always mention this to a trusted family member. Be suspicious if someone asks you to stay silent about their offer, as this often means they are trying to scam you.


[1] Older person becomes victim of fraud every 40 seconds OLDER PERSON BECOMES FRAUD VICTIM EVERY 40 SECONDS| PRESS RELEASE | AGE UK

[2] Crime in England and Wales: year ending March 2019 Crime in England and Wales – Office for National Statistics (

[3] Over half of people over 65 have been targeted by fraudsters say Age UK Over half of people over 65 have been targeted by fraudsters say Age UK | Action Fraud

[4] FCA Warning List

[5] Stop getting nuisance calls and texts

[6] Welcome to MPS Online

[7] Report a scam

[8] Report a suspicious website

[9] Action Fraud

[10] What to do if you’re a victim of identity fraud

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