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Debt Awareness Week 2024 – How to avoid scams

Debt Awareness Week 2024 – How to avoid scams


Money affects everything in life from nutrition to our relationships all intrinsically linked to our mental wellbeing. Too much or not enough can lead to further problems such as substance misuse or gambling, which again fuels the deterioration of mental wellbeing, and can add to money concerns.  

A short while ago, we looked at local food banks and how they can aid amidst the cost-of-living crisis. Now, to mark Debt Awareness Week (18th-24th March 2024), we want to highlight a feature from our Winter Shine Connect magazine, about scams.

The charity behind Debt Awareness Week (below), Step Change, encourage people to overcome the barriers that prevent them from seeking help and advice about debt. Without this, debt can spiral, and the longer it goes on the more shame people feel and the more isolated they become. This can result in being susceptible to scams, and the promise of a quick solution. On the other hand, the tempting promise of a ‘too good to be true’ offer can be false and create financial problems. 

So, the message is clear – avoid scams and if you are in debt then, at your earliest opportunity, contact Step Change, or National Debt Line for advice and support or go to for local support around finances, housing and food banks. We’ve included information for these at the end of the article.  


Anyone can fall victim to a scam. Those behind them take advantage of people’s trust, lack of awareness and sometimes despair. Scams can occur in person, over the phone, in an email or online and are becoming ever more sophisticated and convincing in their methods.  

How can I avoid scams? 

Be vigilant and always err on the side of caution. Be aware of the following common types of scams: 

  • Phishing scams such as an email that looks like it is from a reputable company or delivery service and requests personal information.  
  • Shopping scams either online or on the high street, are when goods are offered at lower prices but turn out to be substandard products or never arrive if ordered.  
  • Emotional scams can develop over a long period of time as a scammer builds a platonic friendship or romantic relationship with you, gaining your trust, before asking for urgent financial help. Alternatively, a scammer could impersonate relatives in a text message or email, claiming to be in dire circumstances and needing help.  On both counts the scammer will probably claim the money is for something carrying emotional force such as a medical emergency or housing or travel crisis. 
  • Investment scams are when you are promised high returns if you hand over money, either by a person or through an advert. In reality the scheme does not exist or carries a very high risk and investors end up losing their money.  
  • Job or employment scams advertise fake job opportunities that request payment for training materials, an investment sum, or promise employment on completion of a costly course. In reality the job does not exist, or the employment is not as it is described.  
  • Tax scams are very convincing and often tell you that you are owed money from the government or vice versa, that you owe tax and are threatened with legal consequences if it is not paid. HMRC will never request your details in an email or over the phone.  

Golden rules 

Take your time 

  • Stop and think before handing over any personal information or clicking on any link. A legitimate organisation or a true relative or friend will not pressure you into taking quick actions and will not mind you taking the time to double-check their credentials. 
  • Similarly, take your time when shopping or browsing. Just because something is offered at a lower price, is in the sale or is ‘selling fast’, stop, step back and consider whether this is something that you can afford and really need. 

Check it out 

  • If you are wanting to verify information, search online for the organisation’s website and check contact information or look for trusted review sites. Use directory enquiries or call back on a phone number you already hold for the individual or business if needs be. 

Don’t share 

  • Never share passwords, click on unsolicited links and never allow anyone to download a remote access tool onto any of your devices.  
  • Never talk money or give financial or personal details over the telephone. If you are unsure, disconnect the call. 
  • Activate two factor authentication on email accounts, and social media and keep all of your technical devices and apps updated. 

 Avoid cold callers  

  • Never deal with cold callers on your doorstep. If you’re not expecting someone, then you don’t even have to answer the door.   

 Further information
People who are scammed can experience shame, loneliness and social isolation. This can lead to further financial problems such as debt and gambling. Some adults may be especially vulnerable to fraud and financial abuse too, seek advice for them if you are concerned.  

 Step Change Debt Charity| 0800 138 1111   

Action Fraud | 0300 123 20 40. 

Citizens Advice | 0808 223 1133 

Friends Against Scams  

Age UK | 0800 678 1602 

GamCare | 0808 8020 133 

National Debt Helpline | 0808 808 4000 

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