Research from the Citizen's Advice Bureau shows that over 4 million people a year fall victim to some kind of scam, with older people making up a significant proportion of that figure. Those suffering from dementia are obviously most at risk from making unfortunate decisions, but anyone can be caught out by the increasingly sophisticated methods scammers use via phone, post and email.
Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to reduce the risk.
1. Join the Mail Preference Service and the Telephone Preference Service to cut down on the amount of junk mail and sales calls you receive.
2. Never give out your personal or financial information to anyone unless the transaction has been initiated by you.
3. Some letters and email mimic official looking documents, such as those from the Inland Revenue or your bank. If in doubt, don't follow the instructions in the letter - contact your bank (or whoever the letter claims to be from) yourself in order to check whether it is real or not.
4. Seek a second opinion from a trusted relative over anything which doesn't look or feel quite right.
5. Remember that you can always hang up if someone is pressurising you on the phone. You don't have to be rude: simply say "I'm sorry, I have to go now," and put the phone down.
6. Educate yourself about your consumer rights, and insist on time to think about a purchase before you commit yourself to anything.
7. Don't answer the door to cold callers.
8. If someone calls claiming to be from a utilities company, the police, or similar, ask them to hand over their ID. Close the door, and ring the number given on the ID to check that the person is genuine.
9. Never send payment in order to claim a prize; any genuine prize or win will be free to claim.
10. Regularly review your bank and credit card statements, looking for activity you don't recognise.
11. If you want to give to charity, ensure that the charity has a registered charity number, and check that it is genuine before you donate.
12. Never give pin numbers or passwords out over the phone; no genuine caller will ask for your whole number or password.
13. If in doubt about who you are speaking to, tell them you will call them back, and then call the number you already have for your bank, insurance company or whoever they claim to be.
14. Ensure that your internet connection is secure - ask a knowledgeable relative for help if you don't know how to check. Educate yourself about online security, and avoid clicking links in emails you receive.
15. Don't allow a fear of being scammed to prevent you from enjoying your retirement - you can buy online, use telephone banking and do all the other things modern life allows with complete confidence if you just follow basic security guidelines.
Thankfully action is being taken to prevent scams and to prosecute those who commit this type of crime, so never hesitate to report something if you think it is suspicious and never let it get in the way of you enjoying life and building up a healthy trusting relationship with genuine people.