NHS: Watch out for phone scams

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Members of the public are being urged to be vigilant after two new telephone scams targeting men and women in the over 50 and 60 age bracket came to light.

This information has come from NHS Scotland Counter Fraud Services, on behalf of Action Fraud (National Fraud Intelligence Bureau), and contains advice on how to protect yourself.

In the first case, fraudsters have been phoning victims telling them that they have been placed in the wrong council tax bracket for a number of years and are entitled to a rebate. They normally say that this rebate should be worth about £7,000. Once the victim is convinced, the fraudster tells them that in order to receive the rebate they will need to pay an administration fee in advance.

The payment they ask for varies from £60 to £350. When people have provided their details and made this payment, they then find they are no longer able to make contact with the person they spoke to on the phone. When they phone their council about the rebate and the fact that they are in the wrong tax bracket, the council will confirm that they know nothing about it and that they have been contacted by fraudsters.

The fraudsters have mainly been targeting both male and female victims who are aged 60 and over and live in the Sussex area, but it is likely that the fraudsters will also start to target victims in other areas.

In order to protect yourself, always remember that no legitimate organisation will ask you to pay an advance fee in order receive money and NEVER give out your card details. Your local council will not ever phone you out of the blue to discuss a council tax rebate. If you receive a call of this nature, put the phone down straight away. For that matter, you should never respond to unsolicited phone calls.

If you think you have been a victim of fraud, and have given out your details, hang up the phone and wait five minutes to clear the line before making another call as fraudsters sometimes keep the line open. Then call your bank or card issuer to report the fraud. If at all possible, use a different phone to make that call.

In the second case, involving pensions, cold callers are targeting members of the public aged 50 to 60 in order to “release and transfer their pension early”.

Suspected firms who advertise and arrange pensions are offering investments in alternative commodities such as hotel developments or property in Cape Verde and operate as unregulated collective investment schemes. Often, the cold calling ‘pension companies’ involved are neither regulated nor qualified to give financial advice. They describe themselves as a “trustee, consultant or independent advisor” and offer exceptionally high return rates for investors.

Some victims have signed documents that authorise a limited company to be set up using their personal details, including the utilisation of the Small Self-Administered Scheme (SSAS). While SSAS accounts and limited companies are essential for legitimate schemes, the fact victims are unaware that this is happening suggest there may be an element of fraud involved.

Before transferring your pension, always ensure the risks and growth rates are fully explained to you and check whether the pension arrangement company is registered with the Financial Conduct Authority.

Registered companies can be checked using the FCA register online at https://register.fca.org.uk/

Further advice can be found at

http://www.fca.org.uk/your-fca/documents/protect-your-pension-pot

http://www.fca.org.uk/consumers/financial-services-products/pensions/protect http://www.thepensionsregulator.gov.uk/individuals/dangers-of-pension-scams.aspx