4 ways to spot a financial scam

Anyone can fall for a scam, but people living with dementia can be more at risk because they can find managing money and assessing risk harder. This can make them more vulnerable to scammers.

What do we mean by scams?

Scams are when criminals trick you into giving them access to your money. As well as losing you money, this can also leave you feeling scared and ashamed. Knowing the techniques scammers use can help you protect yourself and your money.

Scams take many forms. Scammers can convince you to buy something that doesn’t exist or spend money when you don’t need to. They can pretend to be your bank, the police, or another trusted organisation to try to get your personal information, bank details or move your money. This can be by phone, email, letter, text or social media.

Scammers can also pretend to be someone they’re not, such as pretending they’re there to do building work on your house, in order to be let into your home to steal from you. It may seem scary but there are ways to keep yourself safe.


Watch our video to hear from Tracey, who is living with dementia and was the target of a phone scam:

Four ways to avoid scams

1. Stay safe when buying online

It is increasingly common to purchase items online. This can be an efficient way of doing your shopping but we have heard of reports where people have purchased items that have then not arrived. There are some fraudulent sellers who set up fake online companies to steal money. It’s important to make sure you’re staying safe and avoiding these scams when shopping online. 

Tip: Check you’re buying from a real company.

  • You can search for a company's details on GOV.UK. This will tell you if they're a registered company or not. If you’re buying something on a site you haven't used before, spend a few minutes checking it – start by finding its terms and conditions. The company’s address should have a street name, not just a post office box. 
  • Check to see what people have said about the company. It’s worth looking for reviews on different websites such as Which? – don’t rely on reviews the company has put on its own website.
  • Sign up to Which?’s free scam alert email service that gives anyone who signs up the information to know how to spot, avoid and report a scam as well as information about the latest scams.
  • If you decide to go ahead with the purchase and the item costs more than £100, use a credit card if you have one, as you might have a legal claim for credit card purchases above that amount if things go wrong. If you have paid by debit card or paid a lower amount, talk to your bank anyway.
  • Don’t rely on seeing a padlock in the address bar of your browser - this doesn’t guarantee you’re buying from a real company.

2. Learn how to spot a phishing scam

Scammers can send out emails that appear to be from a legitimate company, government department, utility provider, or financial service.

They attempt to trick you into clicking on a malicious link in the email then ask you to provide sensitive information such as personal and financial details. This is known as 'phishing'.

One common tactic used by scammers is to contact potential victims by email pretending to be from your bank or utility provider asking you to move money to another account, to make a payment or to provide personal or financial information.

Tip: Be careful where you click.

  • If you get an email from a company with a strange email address or one that has never emailed you before asking you for money/payment unexpectedly, don’t click on links or download anything. Doing this could infect your computer with a virus. Make sure your antivirus software is up to date to give you more protection.
  • If you’re not sure an email from a company is genuine, head to their website to find ways to contact them from there (using the telephone number or email address provided).
  • If you receive an email which seems too good to be true or is trying to make you take urgent action, stop and think if it could be a scam. Ask someone you trust for a second opinion.

3. Stay safe from people at your door pretending to be someone they’re not

Scammers can also approach your house and pretend to be someone they’re not. This could be someone pretending they’re there to do building work on your house but really they want to be let into your home so they can steal from you.

Tip: Remember it's okay to keep the door closed to strangers.

  • If you have an unexpected visitor at your door, always ask to see their ID.
  • If someone claims to be from a recognised organisation, then don’t be afraid to ask to see proof or check with the organisation itself.
  • If possible, call a friend or family member to let them know that someone has come to the house you don’t recognise and discuss why they have called.
  • Don’t be afraid to shut the front door while you check they are who they say they are. If visitors are genuine, they will understand.
  • Consider putting a ‘no cold callers’ sign on your front door. You may be able to get one from your local council. They are also available online.

4. Protect yourself on the phone

Scammers can also call you claiming to be someone they’re not. This is often your bank or utility provider, to try and get you to tell them your personal details, such as your PIN or password. You should never give personal information to someone you don’t know. 

It’s important to keep yourself safe and know when you should just end the conversation. Don’t be afraid to hang up if you are unsure.

Tip: Contact your provider to ask how they might contact you.

  • If you receive a letter, email, text or phone call you’re unsure about, which seems too good to be true, or needs urgent action, ask someone you trust for a second opinion.
  • A real bank or organisation will never contact you out of the blue asking for your PIN, full password or to move money to another account. Check your bank or utility provider’s website or call them to see how they will and won’t communicate with you. For example, find out what type of security questions they’ll ask if they phone you.
  • Don’t feel pressured to act straight away. Take your time and seek advice if you receive a call asking you to do something you’re not sure about. 
  • Unwanted sales and marketing calls can be stopped for free by signing up to the Telephone Preference Service. Most junk mail can also be stopped by opting out at the Mailing Preference Service.
  • Never let somebody talk you into downloading software, or to log on to your computer or other devices, such as your mobile phone or a tablet, remotely during or after a cold call. 

Getting support with scams

Scammers use clever, high-pressure tactics so you shouldn’t feel ashamed if you have been scammed. There is help available.

If you're worried you’ve been scammed or given your details to the wrong people, tell someone close to you, and report it to your bank and the police straight away. Alzheimer’s Society is here to support you. 

Dementia Connect support line
Our dementia advisers are here for you.
Useful organisations

Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime. You can sign up for email alerts about recent scams in your area - registering is free, simple and easy. Citizens Advice can also provide help with online scams.

Action Fraud Citizens Advice

This was first published in March 2020 and most recently updated in November 2021.

14 comments

Add a comment

Hi I really don't know how to deal with the situation I have, mum is going through diagnosis but has POA or will so been advised to go for court protection order, her memory is really bad most days happened so quickly she's 85 ask for her parents phone number, so I know need to do something but this process is so expensive I don't have that sort of money, what can I do?

Hi Sally,

We'd strongly recommend calling our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456 to speak with one of our dementia advisers. They can listen to your mum's situation in more detail and offer specific information, advice and support.

More details about the support line (including opening hours) are available here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementia-connect-support-line

We hope this helps.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

Your site is used by people with Alzheimers to find out more, yet the first thing I see on you media streams are sign ups for regular donations and support. My mum has signed up inadvertently for a monthly payment. This may not be a scam but its praying on people who cannot make informed choices by having it so prominently on your pages. If you want to financially protect alzheimers patients, please pay attention to your own messages and action appropriately!

Hi there,

We're sorry to hear this.

Our staff are all trained on how to speak to a person with dementia, and if they believe that someone is not in a position to set up a direct debit then they will take the necessary action.

However, we also don’t want to take agency away from people with dementia, especially from those in the early stages.

Some of our campaigns, such as our Brain Workout, may prove beneficial to people with dementia and if they want to receive this in exchange for a donation of their choosing, then we’re happy to help.

If you wish to cancel your mum’s direct debit, please contact our Supporter Care team on 0330 333 0804 or email [email protected]. They’ll be happy to assist you in this matter.

Thank you.

Alzheimer's Society Supporter Care team

There is a common scam you haven't mentioned, where the caller rings your landline and says they are from BT and they can help you "speed up your connection" or they can "check your router is working properly" or some such thing. It sounds like an offer of help, something that will improve things, and for free. They ask you to turn the computer on, then to type something they tell you into Google, then something else, then to click on a link on a website - it all goes on a long time, and the person is talking all the time in a nice friendly way. What they are doing is taking you to a website that can load a piece of software that will then give them remote access to, and control of, your computer. The ultimate goal of course is to get money either out of your bank account, or via some other route - perhaps buying valuable things on Amazon or ebay that you pay for and they receive - I'm not sure what else they might try if they can't access your bank account. My partner who has mild Alzheimer's fell for this and was quite convinced it was really BT and they were "sorting out my computer for me". Luckily I rang up on his mobile while it was happening - but only after they'd been rummaging around in his computer for an hour! A computer-savvy friend has the computer now and has got the malicious software out and put the operating system back together in good working order, but it was quite a job and required a lot of expertise. Hope this is helpful to someone.

Hi Linda,

Thanks for your comment, and highlighting this scam for us. We're also very sorry to hear about what your partner went through.

The kind of scam you're referring to is one we're aware of, and the video at the top of this page refers to a very similar scam that is quite common.

We currently don't have a full list of all current scams, but strongly recommend signing up for free to Action Fraud Alert to receive verified, accurate and up-to-date information about scams and fraud in your area: https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/sign-up-for-action-fraud-alert

You can also find more information and advice about scams on the Citizen's Advice website: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/scams/get-help-with-online-s…

We hope this helps, Linda.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

Hi
My wife has altzheimers and would like to know if there is a badge or emblem that would tell people that she is a sufferer

Hello John.
Thank you for your comment. Rather than wearing a badge, if your wife would like a discreet way to let others know about her diagnosis while out and about, we have free helpcards available: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/publications-and-factsheets/h…
Helpcards are an easy way for people with dementia to get help or assistance when out in the community. Personal information can also be added to them, so that people with dementia can get help in the best way for them, and only from people they feel safe around.
We hope this is helpful.
-
Alzheimer's Society blog team

Great website giving very helpful information.
It would be helpful also to have sections on useful things to help those suffering from dementia in combatting loneliness and isolation

Hi Ros,
Thanks for getting in touch. We're pleased to hear you found our information helpful.
In case you haven't seen it already, we have a section of the website full of advice and tips for people affected by dementia during the pandemic: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/coronavirus
In addition, here are some pages related to loneliness that be of interest: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/categories/support/loneliness
If you're looking for further information or support about dementia, we recommend speaking with one of our advisers on 0333 150 3456. They are available seven days a week. You can find opening hours for our Dementia Connect support line here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/dementia-connect-support-line
We hope this helps, Ros.
-
Alzheimer's Society blog team

I'm willing to relocate anywhere in the UK if my help is not required localy

My stepmother is paying additional fees to her care agency because her usual Tesco weekly delivery is not available. She lives alone; she is deaf; she has dementia and self-funds all her care.
I have PoA for health and finance but I do not live near-by

Are there any campaigns to add dementia to the list of people who are vulnerable. We are unable to shop, age, health etc. My husband has dementia with Parkinson’s, I have asthma, several heart conditions, and polycaethemia.

Hi Gwenda,
Thanks for reaching out. We are sorry to hear about the struggles you and your husband have been facing.
Over the past few weeks, we have been raising issues on behalf of vulnerable people and people affected by dementia to supermarkets as well as directly to Government.
We are currently sending a letter to Public Health England, asking them to change the categories so it is clear that people with dementia get support from the 'increased risk' category. We want that change communicated to all supermarkets. We have also spoken to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs about the needs of people affected by dementia. We are asking all supermarkets to have telephone delivery numbers so vulnerable people can order food via the telephone safely.
In the meantime, if you have questions about receiving support or advice, please speak with one of our dementia advisers on 0333 150 3456. They are available seven days a week. You can find opening hours for our Dementia Connect support line here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/dementia-connect-support-line
We hope this helps, Gwenda.
-
Alzheimer's Society blog team

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.