Oxfordshire residents warned against financial scams

Residents are being advised to be on their guard against criminals and scammers who continue to target communities in Oxfordshire. The warning come as part of Scams Awareness Fortnight, launched on 14 June 2021.

Oxfordshire County Council’s trading standards team has received recent reports of scams targeting people using emails, text messages, and social media, pretending to be their bank or HMRC, inviting them to join investment schemes or ‘verify’ their information.

It is thought that scammers are taking advantage of financial measures put in place during the pandemic, such as furlough.

Councillor Neil Fawcett, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Services and Safety, said: “It is disappointing that some people will look to take advantage of the situation our country is facing, but unfortunately this is a reality. Where possible, trading standards will pursue and tackle these unscrupulous individuals, but preventing people becoming victims in the first place is key. Be a good friend by helping protect your family and neighbours from scams.”

Jody Kerman, Head of Oxfordshire County Council’s Trading Standards, said: “Scams come in many different guises so, before taking any action or agreeing to an offer: Stop, ‘take five’, and discuss with a trusted friend or family member. Why not learn more about how to spot these kind of crimes by becoming a Friend Against Scams?”

Here are some of the scams trading standards is aware of. But residents should be aware that deception crimes come in all shapes and sizes, from door knocking to phone calls, mail and online:

  • Adverts offering fake ‘get rich quick’ schemes.
  • Phone calls, texts or emails pretending to be from a bank, asking to move money or to provide personal details, or claiming that an account has been compromised.
  • Texts asking to ‘verify’ personal details.
  • An offer of a pensions review.
  • Scams stating that a tax code needs reviewing.
  • Texts stating that an extra parcel delivery payment is required.
  • Scams claiming to be from official organisations, such as DVLA or TV Licensing.
  • Emails offering a refund on council tax, utility bills, or similar. They are usually bogus and are just after personal and bank details.
  • Remember: Banks, the police or other official organisations will never ask for account details over the phone or via text.

Tips to avoid being scammed:

  • Be cautious. Do not be afraid to hang up, bin it, delete it, or shut the door.
  • Take time to respond; do not be rushed into making a decision.
  • If someone claims to represent a charity, ask for ID. Be suspicious of requests for money up front.
  • Check with family and friends before accepting offers of help, if unsure.
  • Protect financial information, especially from strangers. Never give bank card or PIN details to a stranger.
  • Research whoever makes contact. Almost all financial services firms must be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – if they are not, it is probably a scam. Check the FCA’s Financial Services Register to see if a firm or individual is authorised or registered.
  • Be cautious of investment opportunities, particularly if they seem too good to be true. Seek professional advice before making any decisions.
  • Be suspicious. Scammers can be very smart. They can appear like a trusted business or government official, have a professional website and say all the right things.

Take time to work out if this is a real organisation. Ask them for ID or contact the organisation on a trusted number.

  • Make sure antivirus software is up to date.
  • Keep online accounts secure. Use a strong password for email accounts that are not used anywhere else. Choosing three random words is a good way to create a strong and easy to remember password. Include numbers and symbols.

Contact information:

  • If you think you have been scammed, report it to Action Fraud: 0300 123 2040.
  • If you need advice, call Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline: 0808 223 1133.
  • If you are in immediate danger, contact the police on 999.
  • Contact your bank if you think you have been financially scammed.
  • Age UK runs a telephone support service (for older people and carers): 01865 411288.
  • Forward scam text messages to 7726 – it is free.

To learn more about different types of scams and how to protect yourself and others, visit www.FriendsAgainstScams.org.uk and complete the free online training.