How to help the elderly avoid scams and cold calls

Top tips for keeping your loved ones safe from scams

Sarah Pennells – Virgin Money Living Mentor

by Sarah Pennells | Independent Money Mentor

Founder of SavvyWoman and award-winning journalist

According to the charity Age UK, nearly five million older people have been targeted by scammers, with one in ten of those targeted responding. If you have elderly parents, you’ll know that making their retirement money last is enough of a challenge without scammers helping themselves. So, what steps can you take if you’re concerned that your parents may fall victim to fraud, or they’re simply inundated with cold calls?

Cut out the cold calls

Registering with the Telephone Preference Service should reduce the number of cold calls your parent receives. It’s free of charge but it will take up to 28 days for the registration to take effect. Companies shouldn’t call you once you’re on the register, unless you’ve agreed to them contacting you. The rules apply to companies in the UK, including overseas call centres acting on their behalf. I’ve registered and it’s reduced calls but not stopped them completely. You could also get a phone that displays the number of incoming calls. That way your mum or dad can decide which calls to answer. Companies that cold call must – by law – display the number they’re calling from, although the rogues don’t always do this. Lastly, make sure your parents’ phone number is ex-directory. They’ll have to contact their phone provider to get this changed.

You can use the Telephone Preference Service to register your mobile number as well as a landline. Text the letters TPS followed by your email address to 85095 and you shouldn’t get nuisance calls on your mobile. The government has just announced it’s going to introduce a ban on cold calls, texts and emails from companies about pensions. But they’ve not said when this could be introduced.

Report spam texts

If your parents get spam texts, what they should do depends on whether they know the company that’s sending them. If it’s a legitimate company they’ve dealt with before, they should reply to the text with the words STOP ALL. This should mean they don’t receive marketing texts in the future. But if the text is about something like PPI mis-selling or compensation for a car accident they’ve never had, it’s a spam text and in which case they should report it to their network provider. Text 7726 (it spells out ‘SPAM’ on your mobile keyboard) to their mobile network – or 37726 if your parents are with Three and 87726 if they’re with Vodafone.

Say no to doorstep tradesmen

Door-to-door sales agents can be very persuasive, but the law was toughened up a couple of years ago to give people better protection. If your parents are sold something at home costing £42 or more, they have 14 days to cancel from the date they placed the order. There are a few exceptions – for example, it doesn’t apply to financial products, package holidays or regular food or drink deliveries. If the salesman doesn’t tell your parents about their right to cancel, that 14-day period is automatically extended to 12 months. What’s more, the salesman could face unlimited fines or go to prison for up to two years.

Useful links

The Financial Conduct Authority ScamSmart website provides further information on how to avoid scams.

The Citizens Advice website has lots of useful information about door-to-door traders and your rights.

Before making financial decisions always do research, or talk to a financial adviser. Views are those of our mentors and customers and do not constitute financial advice.