Scam warning: Urgent update issued over rising fraud – 3 checks to stop you being conned

Coronavirus: Expert discusses new study on mental health

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According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the number of people showing symptoms of depression has almost doubled since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Problems have increased amongst all age groups, from children to the elderly, with loneliness, anxiety and fear all impacting mental health. Now, a new study has shown scammers eager to take advantage of the most vulnerable in society are worsening the problem, with people not answering their phones for fear of being conned.

Research commissioned by fraud-fighting specialists Individual Protection Solutions (IPS) shows that more than half of people over the age of 55 will avoid answering the phone in case it is a scammer.

Two-thirds of people receive a scam contact at least once a week, most often via email, phone or text message.

Of those surveyed, 30 percent are more worried about scams since the beginning of the pandemic.

A spokesperson for IPS told “The IPS research reveals that vulnerable people are less fortunate, and that scamming is causing huge damage to the emotional wellbeing of people who are isolated, and who rely on technology to keep in touch with others.”

And while the elderly are frequently targeted by scammers, this isn’t only a problem for that age group.

The spokesperson said: “Increasingly, young people’s data is being leaked onto the dark web by tech giants, making them extremely vulnerable to attack.”

How can you stay safe from scammers?

IPS is “calling for a sea-change in attitudes to transparency and education to prevent people from being left alone and isolated by scammers”.

Charlie Shakeshaft, who founded IPS Community five years ago after his grandmother was bombarded with scam calls, told “I set it up after my grandmother was deluged by fake phone calls and felt vulnerable – so I learned the most simple steps on her behalf.

“The risk and likelihood of being scammed online or over the phone is higher than having your home burgled. Yet the reality is that many people don’t know where to start when it comes to data protection.”

While the problem persists, there are things individuals can do to protect themselves and feel open to online communications with loved ones again.

The first thing to do is register your phone number in the official ‘Do Not Call’ register.

There are a number of tools to help you block or limit the number of suspicious calls or emails you get and ensure you’re safe.

Once you’ve taken control of your data, it’s time to think about how to protect yourself from any scams that still sneak through.

According to the IPS, there are three things you can do to stay safe.

1. Ignore

The IPS said: “In any scam, your reaction or interaction gives the criminal something to work with. If you do nothing, they get nothing. Start with that as your main defence.”

This can mean not clicking on a suspicious email, or hanging up the phone as soon as you get suspicious.

“If you ignore their attempts to reach you, they are more likely to give up and try someone else,” the IPS said.

2. Think

Scammers usually try to rush you into doing something before you’ve had a chance to think it through – never feel like you have to rush.

The IPS said: “Not everything is a scam and we don’t want you to ignore all the wonderful things the internet or your telephone or your local community has to offer.

“When scammers do get through to you they typically try to get you to do something in a hurry before you have time to consult with a trusted friend or do any research yourself.

“Make a promise to yourself right now that you have no need to rush into any decision.”

3. Is it good or bad news?

The IPS said, as a rule of thumb: “If it’s too good to be true, it usually isn’t true. If it’s too bad to be true, it usually isn’t true.”

Bear this in mind when you get some unexpected news.

You’ve won a lottery somewhere? Probably not true.

You’ve been left some money by a long lost relative? Probably not true.

Your account has been compromised and you’re about to lose all your money? Probably not true.

HMRC are going to prosecute you unless you pay a fine immediately? Probably not true.

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