Nick Hewer reveals the tactics scammers use on the over 55s

Nick Hewer is supporting the FCA’s ScamSmart campaign, aimed at raising awareness of investment fraud amongst over 55sPhotograph: Rosie Hallam

Fraudsters are increasingly targeting the over 55s, in an effort to get their greedy hands on their pension savings. In order to trap retirees more effectively, they employ specific tactics that they know work better on them. The Financial Conduct Authority has revealed details of the tactics in order to help savers spot when they are being taken for a ride.

See also: Baby Boomers set for disappointing retirement

See also: The fatal flaw in the government's pensions cold calling ban

See also: Carol Vorderman learns the secrets of the scammers

Nick Hewer, who is supporting the campaign, says: "As someone who has been approached by scammers myself, I know how hard it is to identify whether an investment offer is legitimate. They're very clever these people, playing psychological games to win over the trust of often vulnerable victims."

There are several tactics that play on the specific psychology of older investors.

1. 'Act fast'
FCA research found that 53% of people over the age of 55 believe that acting quickly can be the key to getting a good deal. Unfortunately, the fraudsters know this, so one approach they use is put people under pressure to make a decision quickly about a time-limited investment.

2. 'Keep quiet'
A third of older people say it's best not to discuss investment decisions with other people, and just 48% said they would seek financial advice. The scammers play on this desire for privacy, and emphasise that the deal needs to remain secret. Unfortunately, this stops victims from speaking to others who may be able to dissuade them from making a poor investment.

3. 'Everyone else is taking advantage'
Some 45% of people aged over 55 agree that investment opportunities are more attractive if you know other people who have made a similar investment (this is known as social proof). Scammers will exploit this by talking of other retirees who have made a fortune - and several others who want in on the deal.

4. 'I know what I'm doing'
Older investors have spent years gaining experience of savings and investments, and are rightly proud of all they have learned. Scammers will take advantage of this, and use flattery to their benefit. They will continually praise their victims for their investment skills - in an effort to build their confidence enough to make an investment.

5. 'I deserve a decent return'
Older people, who have spent years building a pension pot, have also seen the returns available from savings dwindle to almost nothing. Their view of the returns they ought to be able to get from low-risk investments is rooted in a time when savings received 5% interest or more. It means they are susceptible when scammers offer them lucrative returns above the market rate, and downplay the risks of the investment.

Protect yourself

To protect yourself, the FCA says that at the very least, you should reject any unsolicited contact about investments.

If you are considering an investment with a firm you believe is reputable, you should check the FCA register and the FCA Warning List to make sure.

Ideally, it's also a very good idea to take impartial advice. You will need to pay for advice, but if it can help you avoid the scammers and make the very most of your pension investments, then it may well be worth the money.

As Hewer says: "Remember, if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is. If you are offered an attractive investment out of the blue, be suspicious, check the FCA's Warning List and seek impartial advice. Better still, if you get a cold call, just put the phone down!"

Victims of scams and fraud
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Victims of scams and fraud
Susan Tollefsen, Britain's oldest first time mother, was scammed out of £160,000 by a fraudster she met on an online dating site. A man claiming to be an Italian gold and diamond dealer told her he was in the middle of a land deal but couldn't access cash. Tollefsen felt sorry for him and started wiring him money, eventually selling her jewellery, her flat and borrowing £32,000 from friends to give him. Read the full story here.
In March 2015 an American woman who was only identified as 'Sarah' went on the popular US television programme the Dr Phil Show to reveal she had sent $1.4 million to a man that she had never met. Although she was certain she wasn't being scammed, her cousin made her go on the programme because she was convinced it was a scam. Find out more about the story here.
Maggie Surridge employed Lee Slocombe to lay a £350 deck in her garden in March 2015. However Slocombe used a combination of lies to scam Surridge out of thousands of pounds. He told Surridge that the front and back walls were dangerous and needed rebuilding and also conned her into building a porch, all for the cost of £8,500. Read the full story here.
It's not just individuals who can be the victims of scams, big corporations can also fall foul of these fraudulent practices. In 2015 Claire Dunleavy repeatedly used a 7p 'reduced' sticker to get significant amounts of money off her shopping at an Asda store in Burslem, ending up with her paying just £15.66 for a shop that should have cost £69.02. Read the full story here.
Sylvia Kneller, 76, was conned out of £200,000 over the space of 56 years thanks to scam mail. The pensioner became addicted to responding to the fraudsters, convinced that she would one day win a fortune. Ms Kneller would receive letters claiming she had won large sums of money but she needed to send processing fees to claim her prize. Learn about the full story here
Leslie Jubb, 103, became Britain's oldest scam victim in August last year when he was conned out of £60,000 after being sent an endless stream of catalogues promising prizes in return for purchasing overpriced goods. The extent of this con was discovered when Mr Jubb temporarily moved into a care home and his family discovered what he had lost. Find out more about this story here
Stephen Cox won more than £100,000 on the National Lottery in 2003 but has been left with nothing after falling victim to two conmen. The 63-year-old was pressured into handing over £60,000 to the men who told him his roof needed fixing. They walked him into banks and building societies persuading him to part with £80,000 of cash while doing no work in return. See the full story here
Last year the Metropolitan Police released CCTV footage of a woman who had £250 stolen at a cash machine in Dagenham. The scam involved two men distracting the woman at the machine, pressing the button for £250 then taking the money and running away. Read about the full story here.
Rebecca Ferguson shot to fame as a runner up on the X-Factor in 2010 but fell victim to a scam artist last year when someone she had believed to be a friend conned her out of £43,000. Rachel Taylor befriended the singer in 2012 and claimed to be a qualified accountant, so Ferguson allowed her to look after her finances. Instead of doing this Taylor stole £43,000 from the Liverpudlian singer. Read more here
When Rebecca Lewis discovered her fiance had started a relationship with a woman he met online she packed her bags to leave. But that didn't stop her checking out the mystery woman, Rebecca quickly realised Paul Rusher's new love was actually part of a romance scam. She told Paul just before he sent the scammers £2,000 which was supposed to bring his new girlfriend to England. Find the full story here.

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