From Chris Clarke

This note summarises a few points made at the “Wellbeing” meeting held online from Jesmond Library on 6 January 2021. The meeting was organised by the Elders Council of Newcastle and the Friends of Jesmond Library. The principal speakers were Andrew Hyde, from Northumbria Police Community Engagement Team, Kenneth Hines from Newcastle Building Society, and Rhian Lukins, from Project ICE at Northumbria University. All the speakers referred to some excellent backup documents and websites, some of which are listed at the end of this note. All three speakers offered to deal with follow up queries; if you would like to follow up on this email enquiries@jesmondlibrary.org and we will forward them to the correct person.

Andrew started with a number of tips for dealing with doorstep sales people, especially tradesmen offering to do household jobs:

  • Always ask to see identification;
  • If a doorstep sales person shows a supposed licence, check that it is actually valid in this area, many aren’t (eg certain traders from Middlesbrough);
  • Never pay cash for services, building work, etc, and never give your credit or debit card to someone that you don’t trust 100%;
  • Ask for  a written quotation, which you can then compare with alternatives, and resist later attempts to add extra charges;
  • Be particularly suspicious if works are said to be urgent;
  • Any respectable tradesman should offer a cooling off period;
  • If someone on the doorstep is becoming a nuisance, or threatening, telephone 999 immediately.

All speakers emphasised that you should never give personal or bank account details to telephone callers. Never agree to transfer money from one account to another, in response to a telephone call or email. Put the phone down, and if you are concerned, telephone the bank or company who was supposed to have made the call. They will often confirm that the call was a fraud.

Many banks, building societies and other companies encourage online banking these days, and this can be very convenient. Ken emphasised the importance of keeping anti-virus protection up to date, on your computer and other devices. For anything more than a straightforward search for information, do not use a public wi-fi network for financial transactions. Change your passwords regularly, and do not use easy-to-guess passwords such as your birthday or pet’s name. If you do use online banking, check your account regularly, so that unauthorised payments or direct debits do not go undetected.

Rhian gave a lot of useful advice about scam emails, emphasising how clever fraudsters are in making fake emails look like the real thing. Giveaways include emails coming from email addresses different to those of the purported sender. If in doubt, check on the purported sender’s own website, but never click on a link included in the possible fake email itself.

One of the most worrying thing for many attendees at the meeting was recent fraud attempts purporting to be from official sources, such as a phone call from a fake “policeman”, an email or text purporting to offer a COVID-19 vaccine or test, a scam email supposedly from Which?, offering a chance to play a game and win an M&S voucher, or numerous scams saying that they are from Microsoft, Amazon or Paypal.

For a copy of “The Little Book of Big Scams” see https://beta.northumbria.police.uk/media/3271/little-book-of-big-scams-edition-5.pdf

For information about improving your cyber security see https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/cyberaware/home

Another useful source of information is https://www.actionfraud.police.uk . Report any cybercrime to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040.

For more information on IT classes run by Project ICE see https://www.facebook.com/PROJECTICEITforelders

For information on training on recognising and dealing with phishing see https://www.phishing.org.uk

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