How to spot a scam

How to spot a scam

With the new pension freedoms now in force, the UK’s leading charity for older people, Age UK, is warning that people over 55 are increasingly likely to be targeted by fraudsters.

However, it’s not just the changes to the pension rules which are creating new opportunities for scams and Age UK knows that older people can often be a target for tricksters.

New research from the Charity reveals that over half of older people believe they have been targeted by scammers and that while many do not respond, seven in ten of those who do say that they have personally lost money.

The research suggests that a third of older people who responded to a scam may have lost £1,000 or more.

With over half of people aged over 65 saying they have received some form of communication – a phone call, text, email, post – they believe to have been a scam, Age UK offers a range of advice to highlight smart ways in which older people can protect themselves.

As well as a series of Top Tips (see below) to help older people to spot a fraudster and avoid scammers, Age UK has also developed a series of information and advice to help people stay in control of their cash.

Covering key areas such as pension scams, nuisance calls, doorstep crimes, investment schemes and online scams, people looking for advice can visit:

Here they can also find links to copies of Age UK’s free, downloadable guides Avoiding scams and Staying safe.

People looking for advice or to order a copy of the guides can call Age UK’s free national Advice Line 365 days a year from 8am – 7pm on 0800 169 65 65.

Age UK’s top tips for avoiding scams

If you think you’ve been offered a great deal, don’t agree to it immediately. A genuine offer is unlikely to require an instant decision. Ask your family and friends what they think or call an advice agency such as Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06. For suspected pension scams call The Pensions Advisory Service on 0300 123 1047.

Make sure the company is reputable

Before you commit to buying, check the seller. Does the company have a contact number that works and a postal address, and is it a member of a trade association? Financial companies must be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – you can check at or call 0800 111 6768.

Know who’s on your doorstep

If you answer the door to someone you don’t know, ask for an identity card and check it. You could phone the company they represent to check who they are.  Think about putting up a notice saying you don’t buy on the doorstep. If you’re suspicious or the caller won’t leave, call 999 and ask for the police.

See our free guide Staying safe, which can be downloaded from or ordered from the Age UK Advice Line on 0800 169 65 65.

Be wise to cold call scams

Ignore unsolicited invitations such as letters, emails or phone calls offering a brilliant investment or saying you’ve won a lottery. Ignore them and never reply – it shows your details are active which will encourage scammers to contact you again. Contact the Mailing Preference Service on 0845 703 4599 to have your name taken off UK direct mailing lists. Check your email account is set up to filter spam.

Be aware of new pension scams

New rules allowing people to access their pension pots from age 55 have brought with them new scams. Be cautious of anyone that claims to know about loopholes, talks about overseas investments or says you can get your money before age 55. The FCA lists current scams at Visit the Government’s Pension Wise website for free and impartial guidance on your pension options.

Report it

Anyone can be taken in by a scam, so don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed if it happens to you. If you think you’ve been scammed, or you’ve spotted a scam contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to report it and get help.

See our free guide Avoiding scams or visit our scams page at