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'No-hang up' phone scam targets vulnerable people - and your bank may not protect you

Published 06/07/2015

Unscrupulous crooks prey on older people to trick them out of their savings
Unscrupulous crooks prey on older people to trick them out of their savings

If you have vulnerable relatives, friends and neighbours, talk to them this summer about the risk of being scammed.

The Financial Ombudsman Service has published new research today warning that people over the age of 55 are four times more likely to be caught out by a ‘no-hang up’ scam.

That’s when fraudsters cold call victims and pretend to be from a bank or the police.

They tell their victims that their bank account is at immediate risk and inform them they need to move or withdraw their money urgently, telling people to call them back to add to the plausibility of the scam. But the crooks simply stay on the line to fool people into thinking they’ve actually called their bank or the police.

Most no-hang up scams it dealt with involves online money transfers where victims were tricked into transferring money to a so-called ‘safe’ account. But in many cases, people are persuaded to hand over their PIN and give their card to a pretend “courier” who passes it on to the crooks.

"These are extremely cruel and convincing deceptions and consumers are tricked into believing they are protecting their money, when in fact it is being stolen," said Caroline Wayman, chief ombudsman.

The Ombudsman looked at cases it has been involved in where people lost £4.3m. One in five lost savings of between £20,000 and £49,999 while some unfortunate people lost more than £100,000.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: "That anyone would target an older person to defraud them in the first place is abhorrent but we know that older people are deliberately targeted and can be especially at risk if they are living with dementia and/or cognitive decline.

"Some older people are more vulnerable to fraud because they live alone or in isolation, but fraud is something that can happen to any of us."

The Ombudsman gets involved when the victim thinks their bank hasn’t done enough to help them. And while in two out of five cases, it ruled in favour of the victim, in the majority it did not.

That’s because banks have a duty to act on their customer's instructions, so if a consumer transfers or withdraws money themselves during a scam they are unlikely to get it back.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: "It is critical that banks act swiftly to help victims of scams and provide them with accurate information on their rights.

"With scams becoming much harder to spot and fraudsters using aggressive tactics to hook their victims, the old adage still stands - if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

Never give out personal or banking information when answering a call.  If you have doubts just hang up and use a different phone to call a trusted number.

Banks will never ask people for their PIN or ask them to key it into the phone keypad. They will never send someone to a customer's home to collect a bank card.

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