HOW safe from the scammers do you think you are? Many of us are confident that we would never fall for crimes that can end up costing thousands of pounds.

However, Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS), which oversees 60 advice bureaux, says more of us are at risk than we might have thought, and a new campaign will warn four groups of people most at risk of being conned out of cash.

CAS says people aged over 70 are most at risk, but three other groups are also likely to fall victim to scammers – young people aged 16 to 24, life established people aged 45 to 60 and socially isolated people of all ages.

The organisation has launched Scams Awareness Month, which begins tomorrow, in the hope of helping people to spot the dangers.

CAS has seen a sharp increase in the number of victims coming forward in the last year. Lucy Manson, a Community Action Team manager with the organisation, said: “Scams can happen by phone, by mail, online or on your own doorstep, and they can cost people hundreds or even thousands of pounds.

“We’ve seen a 24 per cent increase over the last year in people reporting scams to the Scottish CAB network. That shows how big the problem is, but it is also an encouraging sign that people are coming forward to talk about their experience of being scammed, because that is the way we are going to beat the scammers.

“So, our message throughout this month is that we all need to be vigilant and watch out for scams." And the key messages?

Take your time before making any decisions to part with your cash. Don’t be rushed into a decision.

Make sure you research the company first – for example by asking friends and family about them or researching them online.

Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

"If people are hit by a scam," Manson added, "they should talk about it to their friends and family and report it to the CAB service or to Trading Standards or the police, so we can warn other people about it.”

Advice on scams is available from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06.



The average age of reported scam victims is 75 and those over 70 have the highest losses from a range of scams, targeted by landline, phone and mail. CAS research found the average financial loss for those aged between 75 to 79 is £4,500. Although older people often report scams, they can lack confidence in their ability to protect themselves against scammers, which makes them more vulnerable.

CAS advice: Be wary of cold callers and thoroughly check the ID of tradespeople on your doorstep. Be cautious when answering the phone to an unknown caller or opening unexpected letters.

Life established

People aged 45 to 60 are targets because they are more likely to own their own home and have access to financial assets, making them a likely target of investment scams. Seven out of ten people with income exceeding £25,000 say they have been contacted by someone trying to scam them, compared with four of out ten of whose earnings are less than £9,500 per year, according to research by CAS. A third of all victims of scams are aged 41 to 60.

While the life established are targeted by a wide range of scams, they are most vulnerable to phishing and other banking scams, property scams and pension liberation scams.

CAS advice: Be wary of deals that use persuasive messaging to sell you ‘once in a lifetime’ deals.

Young people

As digital natives, young people are confident when using the internet, leading them to feel they are unlikely to fall for online scams that target them through social media and website advertising. They are often found to be victims of online scams, such as subscription traps, job scams and identity fraud. But they are least likely to report a scam – CAS research found that more than half of adults aged 18 to 24 would be unlikely to report being conned, making them the largest group who are unlikely to take any action when encountering a scam.

CAS Advice: Be cautious of pop-ups on social media and websites that take you to an unknown site.

Socially isolated

People who are socially isolated can be the hardest to reach and often can’t access the same support to protect themselves from scams as other groups. Although people who are socially isolated don’t always report scams, they can be badly affected, both mentally and financially. It has been reported that the names and addresses of approximately 300,000 people nationally are on lists which are being sold between criminals to use as targets for scams. CAS research has found that nine out of ten people on these target lists are unaware that they are being targeted. Often, people who are socially isolated are not able to connect to support or help to prevent this.

CAS Advice: Be cautious of unknown callers and unexpected mail.


A businessman has revealed he was conned out of £3,500 after his details and passwords were obtained by scammers.

Clifford Selbie, 48, from Glenrothes, runs a gardening business in Fife and agreed to an advertising deal with a magazine for emergency services personnel which cost him £250 a year.

The married father-of-three paid up front and the advert appeared for a year, then last year he received a call from someone claiming to be a debt collector who demanded thousands of pounds.

Selbie said: “They threatening to go to take my house over a £3,500 debt, unless I paid £2,500 immediately. Straight away alarm bells went off in my head and I told them if they called again I’d call the police, then I hung up.

"But they phoned me back and said they had my password, and it wasn’t a simple password. When they read it out I just assumed it was legitimate.

“I protested and said I’d paid upfront, but they then threatened to get the police and go to my house and take what they wanted. I gave them bank details. They took the money twenty minutes later.”

He later went online and discovered the magazine publisher had gone bust and his personal data had been sold on to scammers.

Selbie contacted his bank and the police but there was nothing they could do because he had willingly handed over the cash.

He has since to borrow money from relatives which he is struggling to pay back.

“I’m doing overtime, working an extra job as a forklift operator for a building company to get that money back. My gardening business is struggling too, because I can’t afford to buy equipment and materials.

“I’m angry at the scammers, I’m angry at the company which went bust, I’m angry at the law because nothing can be done, I’m also disappointed at having my trust violated.

“I would say to anyone else contacted by so-called debt collectors to check a company still exists and make sure you get a letter from the company to confirm they have referred you to debt collector.”


By CAS Chief Executive Derek Mitchell

If somebody came up to you in the street and stole £100 from your pocket, you wouldn’t just let them walk away with it. You’d be outraged, and you’d call the police. So why do so many of us let people get away with it when their theft is perpetrated online, or over the phone, or even on our own doorstep?

Because that’s what a scam is. It is an attempt to steal money from you by deception. In other words, it is fraud. Or to put it simpler still – it is theft. And it needs to be treated as such.

The aim of our Scams Awareness Month is not just to tell people to be vigilant and avoid scams, it also stresses the importance of reporting them when they do happen.

Because reporting a scam not only allows the authorities to try and get your money back, it should also help them stop that scammer from doing the same thing to someone else.

When we at Citizens Advice Scotland first ran this campaign in 2012, our research showed that 50 per cent of Scots had been targeted by a scam but only 5 per cent were inclined to report it. Today the figure for reporting scams is now up to nearer 15 per cent. Last year saw a 24 per cent increase in the reporting of scams across the Scottish CAB network.

So, the good news is that the message is getting through to people. But we can’t be complacent. We need that figure to be much higher. And crucially, we need to convince people that reporting scams will lead to action.

With scammers becoming ever more sophisticated, the fight against them must be a broad front involving consumer groups like CAS and Trading Standards, as well as the police, industry regulators and even governments. We are already working together but we need to make sure we do so even more closely.

After all, scammers themselves are always upping their game, using more and more channels and even sharing information with each other. So those of us who want to stop them need to do the same.

Scams don’t just cause financial harm and emotional distress to individuals. They also cost the UK economy an estimated £190bn a year - equal to around £10,000 per family. So, this is a national problem that needs national action.

Imagine a public that is energised to spot and report scams, and a network of authorities working together with a dedicated action plan to defeat them: that’s the scammer’s worst nightmare.

And that’s the place we need to get to. So, it’s time for all of us to step up. We at CAS are up for that. We hope others are too.