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Social workers running scam prevention session

Don’t fall victim to scams this Christmas

More people tend to fall prey to scams in the build-up to Christmas. An event being hosted by Age UK and Ealing Council today (Thursday, 6 December) at Greenford Community Centre will look to give people advice on how to beat the scammers.

The event is free to attend and will run between 11am and 12noon. A series of short talks from a variety of professionals and agencies will be followed by the chance to ask questions and to have refreshments. It has been organised by members of the council’s safeguarding adults team – led by social worker Verona Maltman, who is on a mission to raise awareness about the risk of falling for cons this holiday season.

However, if you cannot make it to the event, we have listed some of the team’s top tips below.

“Financial abuse is a big thing,” said Verona. “About half the cases my team sees involves some element of financial abuse. At this time of year, we see a spike in the number of financial abuse cases due to the run up to Christmas.”

There are many types of scams, including identity fraud, scam mail, doorstep scams and banking, phone or internet scams. Scammers can target people of all ages, background and income levels, although some adults may be especially vulnerable to this type of financial abuse. Advice at the event will aim to help people become more aware of these types of scams and thereby protect themselves by being vigilant.

‘Will look at all types of scams’

Moji Osuntubo, a student social worker and part of Verona’s team, said: “The event will look at all types of scams which includes being scammed by a tradesperson or someone who is offering to carry out work which may on the surface appear legitimate.  In conjunction with colleagues from Age UK and the council’s safer communities team, the purpose of the event will be to really raise awareness and highlight how common this problem is as well as advice on how to prevent it.”

The council’s Better Lives programme is focused on various forms of prevention and providing support to remain independent – and this also includes helping to reduce the risk of vulnerable adults from becoming a victim of crime.

“That is why we are organising this event to prevent this from happening,” added fellow student social worker Lucy Stroudley. “Personally, I feel the way to solve this is by building more social connections, whether that’s through being part of a religious community, going to a social club during the day or attending events. If a person has stronger connections with other people, they would be less likely to become targets for these kinds of scams in the first place.”

Top tips to avoid scams

Professionals offer the following advice to help prevent falling victim to fraud and scams:

  • To prevent identity theft, use strong passwords when shopping online and make sure the web address includes an ‘s’ such as in ‘https://’ as the ‘s’ means the website is secure. Also, make your passwords stronger by including letters, numbers and symbols
  • Don’t hand over money, or give out your personal details, to anyone you don’t trust or know well, whether this is in person or over the telephone
  • Spam emails often contain misspellings such as ‘sp0on’ with a zero which is designed to get past spam filters. Other emails could contain a virus warning or a request to forward an email on to other people
  • Don’t accept deals or offers straight away and ask for time to get independent or legal advice
  • Always talk to someone you trust before you give money. Scammers want you to make a decision in a hurry. It’s better to wait and talk it through with someone you know. If you are suspicious about a company or a telephone number, you can type the company name into a search engine like Google with the word reviews to check out the company. Scam telephone numbers are also posted online, you can type the telephone number in to search to find out what other people are saying about the number before you call
  • If something is, ‘too good to be true’, be suspicious. Always check someone’s credentials, or company information
  • To avoid email bank ‘phishing’ scams, hover over the email (but don’t click on it) to see the full email address. Often, these addresses are similar to real bank email addresses but there will be subtle or small changes. If you think you have received a suspicious email, email providers have an option to report phishing scams. Do report them to prevent future scam emails.

Always report a scam and do not feel embarrassed about being the victim of a scam. Reporting it will help protect others from being scammed in the future.

Phone scams are becoming more common. If you receive unwanted calls, you can report it to the regulator here: https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/phone-scams

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