When we retire, many of us picture long lazy days spent bankside. Fishing is a particularly popular pastime amongst the retired population. However, when it comes to our online safety, there’s a different type of danger lurking in the waters.

Phishing (pronounced the same as fishing) is a type of cyber crime. Phishing scams can target people by email, phone or text message. Those behind the scam will often pretend to be from a reputable company. They will use the guise of banks, government organisations or other such companies to try and lure you into handing over sensitive information such as passwords, bank details or other personal information. You can read more about phishing here http://www.phishing.org/what-is-phishing

Those running the scams can be very convincing. They can make you believe that unless you follow their requests you will be at risk of financial or personal hardship. If you receive an email, call or text message that you believe is dubious, it is vital that you DO NOT hand over any personal information.

We’ve compiled a list of key factors to be aware of in order to spot a scam. We hope it’s useful. Please share the information with friends or family members who may find it useful- especially those with cognitive impairments such as dementia.

How to spot a scam


The important thing to remember with email is that it is ALWAYS better to err on the side of caution. Remember, HMRC does not email people. If you receive an email that you believe could be genuine, always ring the company directly using a trusted phone number (NOT a one included in the email). Speaking to someone direct will ensure you receive the correct information.

When it comes to e-mail scams, remember to think FAKE.


  • From– Look at the e-mail address. Many scam emails may look genuine to begin with, using handles such as customerservice@ or hsbc@. Look at the end of the email address. Often scam emails will be easy to identify from the part after the @. For example, an email may read natwest@hywhsd12434.com. This will be a good indicator that the person behind the message is not who they say they are.
  • Action– BEWARE of emails asking you to carry out actions such as transferring money, clicking links to visit sites, downloading attachments or entering personal details.
  • Key factors– Look at things like spelling, grammar and layout of the message. Whilst it may feel like we’re always online, it’s unlikely that reputable UK companies will be sending out emails outside of office hours- check the time it was sent.
  • E-links– If you have opened the email, do not click on any links within the message. They may contain viruses and malware that can, if activated, download spyware into your computer that will monitor all your online activity. Delete the message immediately.


Phone scams are, unfortunately, quite common. You may receive a phone call from someone pretending to be from your bank, energy provider, utility company or offering you compensation. Remember, reputable organisations will never ask you to give out personal details over the phone. If you are under ANY doubt as to the nature of who is calling you- HANG UP. If the caller is genuine, they will not be offended.

Some phone scams have become very sophisticated. Even when you hang up, they can use software to keep your line active. This means that, when you pick the phone back up and dial your bank, for example, the call will actually be picked up by the same scam company who called you initially. If you feel like you have received a scam call, call a trusted number such as a relative. Allow the call to connect. This is a way of clearing the line.

Although many phone scams originate from outside the EU, you can register you number with the telephone preference service (TPS). This should ensure you receive less calls. Remember, it is simply a step towards prevention but will not stop all scam calls.

Text Messages

Mobile phones are great. They allow us to stay connected with friends, family and current events. Unfortunately, they too can be a portal for unscrupulous individuals to try and scam us.

Like all other scams, the message may look genuine. It could appear to be from your bank, Paypal, HMRC or other organisations.  The message may inform you that your account has been compromised. Like the e-mails, the text message may contain links for you to click on. Treat the message with caution. Do not click on links. Our advice is to delete the text. If you wish, you can always call the company directly, again only using a known telephone number, or use an e-mail address obtained from the companies website to contact them.

We hope this has helped. Remember to share with friends and family and help spread the word.