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Scam warning issued as company targeting the elderly is shut down

By: The Insolvency Service

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Senior citizens and their carers are warned to be on the alert against scams, following the forced winding up of another company that had targeted the elderly.

Souza Healthcare Ltd, a London-based company, that sold overpriced health supplements, specifically targeting elderly and vulnerable consumers was wound up by the High Court following an investigation by the Insolvency Service.

The company’s sales representatives had made inaccurate claims about health benefits and pain reduction qualities of the health supplements, falsely implied that they had medical experience and claimed to be calling on behalf of medical organisations. The investigation found that the company’s customers, some of whom were suffering from severe medical conditions including Cerebral Palsy and Dementia, were subjected to lengthy unsolicited telesales calls from call centres in in Goa and Mumbai.

Business Minister Margot James said:

Unfortunately, companies seeking to rip-off older people are nothing new and pray on their politeness in not wanting to say no.

Victims are paying a lot and get nothing in return. The old adage remains true: if something seems too good to be true, it very often is.

The worst aspect of this type of scam is that due to their age, the majority of victims will never be able to make good their loss.

Previous Insolvency Service investigations have led to companies who targeted vulnerable consumers selling mobility scooters, hearing aids, home alarm systems, heritage coins and plots of land being wound up in the public interest.

Age UK has published eight tips for the elderly and their carers to help spot potential scammers and keep themselves safe:

Don’t rush into anything

Scammers try to rush people into making quick decisions by claiming that a great offer or investment is time-limited. Don’t be rushed and seek advice first. Ask your family and friends what they think or call an advice agency such as Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06. For suspected pension scams call The Pensions Advisory Service on 0300 123 1047.

Make sure the company is reputable

Before you commit to buying, check the seller. Does the company have a contact number that works and a postal address, and is it a member of a trade association? Financial companies must be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – you can check the FCA register online or call them on 0800 111 6768.

Know who’s on your doorstep

When answering the door to an unexpected caller, remember: Lock, Stop, Chain, Check:

  • make sure all your doors are locked
  • stop to think if you are expecting anyone
  • put the door chain on
  • check who it is

Ask for an identity card or phone the company they represent to check who they are. Think about putting up a notice saying you don’t buy on the doorstep.

If you’re suspicious or the caller won’t leave, call 999 and ask for the police. Age UK has published Staying safe guidance which is available online or you can order a copy from the Age UK Advice Line on 0800 169 65 65.

Beware of banking scams

Your bank will never call you and ask for your PIN number, for you to give your card to a courier, or for you to transfer your money to another account. If you get a call like this, don’t panic, hang up and then call or visit your bank directly.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is

Ignore letters, emails or phone calls offering a brilliant investment or saying you’ve won a lottery. Remember, if you haven’t entered a lottery then you can’t have won it. Ignore these offers and never reply - it shows your details are active which will encourage scammers to contact you again.

Contact the Mailing Preference Service on 0845 703 4599 to have your name taken off UK direct mailing lists to help stop some junk mail.

Stay safe online

If you use a computer, don’t open emails or attachments from people you don’t know. Make sure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus software and ignore any phone calls that say your computer has a problem or a virus, as this is a scam.

Can you read Age UK’s guidance about staying safe on the internet or you can order it from the Age UK Advice Line on 0800 169 65 65.

Be aware of new pension scams

Now that people have more freedom to access their pension cash fraudsters have developed new scams to trick people out of their retirement savings. Be cautious of anyone that claims to know about loopholes, talks about overseas investments or says you can get your money before age 55.

The FCA lists current scams online. Visit the Government’s Pension Wise website for free and impartial guidance on your pension options.

Report it

Anyone can be taken in by a scam, so don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed if it happens to you. If you think you’ve been scammed, or you’ve spotted a scam contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to report it and get help. You can also download Age UK’s free guide Avoiding scams or visit the scams page on the Age UK website.