Avoid getting caught by a phone scam

Esther Shaw / 04 September 2015

With fraudsters getting increasingly sophisticated and convincing, it has now become a great deal harder to spot a telephone scam. As a result, more and more people are at risk of falling victim to phone fraud.



Older people at greater risk of falling victim to “vishing”

Criminals will use often use persuasive or aggressive tactics over the phone to trick consumers into believing there are protecting their money when it is actually being stolen.

Older individuals – and those living alone, or with dementia or cognitive decline – can be particularly vulnerable.

In fact, worrying new findings from the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) show the over-55s could be four times more likely to get caught out by “vishing” or a “no hang-up” scam.

What exactly is “vishing”?

Vishing – or “voice phishing” – is where crooks fool consumers into thinking they are talking to their bank, or the police.

Callers will, for example, often claim to be from the bank’s fraud department, and tell people they need to move their money urgently, using an online transfer, to keep it safe.

In some cases, victims then transfer money into bogus accounts set up by fraudsters, or give them access to their financial information.

Read our guide to dealing with nuisance phone calls.

Watch out for the “no hang-up” scam

The “no hang-up” scam is an especially worrying version of vishing, as after asking for your PIN number and password, scammers may tell you to call your bank immediately if you don’t believe them.

However, rather than hanging up, the criminal then leaves the line open and intercepts the call. This means all the financial details you think you’re giving to your bank are actually going to the same conman or an accomplice. Shortly afterwards, you are likely to discover that your savings have been raided.

How much are people losing?

According to a new report from the FOS reviewing 200 cases involving a no hang-up scam, 38% of people had lost between £5,000 and £14,999, and 20% between £20,000 and £49,999. Some people had been conned out of more than £100,000.

The sad fact is, if you do fall victim to vishing, there may be little you can do to get your money back, as banks are often reluctant to refund customers who are caught out.

Worse still, on top of the financial loss, phone scams can also cause huge mental anguish.

With this in mind, it is important to familiarise yourself with the risks.

Find out how to stop spam text messages.

Tips to help you avoid falling victim

  • If you’re contacted out of the blue, be suspicious. Never respond to unsolicited calls, texts or emails.

  • Don’t assume a caller is genuine because they have information about you, such as your account details.

  • Never give out personal or banking information when answering an incoming call, and don’t always rely on the 'caller ID' for identification.

  • If you’re not convinced that a caller claiming to be from your bank or the police is genuine, hang up and call back using the phone number printed on your account statements or debit or credit card – or on the company website.

  • Ideally, use a different phone, or wait for at least five minutes before making the call to ensure you’re not speaking to the same conman.

  • Always check who you are dealing with before handing over any cash.

Wise up to phone scams

  • Don’t listen to anyone who tells you to transfer money from your account for fraud reasons. Neither the police nor your bank will ever ask you to do this.

  • Note that banks will never phone you to ask for your PIN or online banking password. They will also never ask you to key your PIN into the phone keypad.

  • Be aware that banks will never ask you to send personal information via text or email. They will also never provide banking services through any mobile apps other than the bank’s official apps.

  • Don’t trust anyone who claims to have been sent to your home to collect cash, your PIN, payment card or chequebook. Banks will never do this.

Read our guide to avoiding cash machine scams. 

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.