By Max Clarke

The Office of Fair Trading and Age UK have joined forces to raise awareness amongst older people of mass-marketed scams and urge them to speak up if they have been targeted by scammers.

Older people are more likely to be targeted by these scammers with over 55s accounting for almost half of people who say they have been approached, according to OFT research.

Age UK is supporting the OFT's Scams Awareness Month as part of its Older People and Crime Initiative which aims to reduce older people's fear of crime. This initiative involves training over 100 Age UK volunteers across England and Wales to advise on issues including scams by visiting older people in local community groups such as at day care centers and coffee mornings.

Helena Herklots, Services Director at Age UK, said:

'Although crime against older people is less likely than other age groups, people in later life can be an attractive target for scammers. Fortunately, a lot of scams can be avoided, provided people have the right information and advice, and know what to look out for.

'Age UK has produced two free information guides 'Avoiding Scams' and 'Staying Safe' which warn people of the most common scams and provide practical steps to ensure older people are able to protect themselves against this type of crime in the home and on the doorstep.'

Michele Shambrook, Operations Manager of Consumer Direct, the OFT managed advice service, commented:

'Scammers are expert at exploiting people's hopes and fears. Anyone can be conned but by learning to recognise the scammer's tricks we can all avoid becoming their next victim.

'We want older people to recognise the warning signs, and feel confident enough to seek advice from friends and family or organizations like ours.'

The OFT and Age UK are giving people the following advice:

* If you are unsure of an offer, speak to family or friends and seek advice from Consumer Direct before sending any money or giving out any banking or credit card details.

* Stop, think and be sceptical. If something sounds too good to be true it probably is.

* Do not be rushed into sending off money to someone you do not know, however plausible they might sound and even where an approach is personalised.

* Ask yourself how likely it is that you have been especially chosen for this offer - thousands of other people will probably have received the same offer.

* Think about how much money you could lose from replying to a potential scam - it's not a gamble worth taking.

This year's Scams Awareness Month is seeking to raise awareness of the scale of the problem with a nationwide 'Scamnesty' run in partnership with 86 local authority Trading Standards Services (TSS). The campaign calls on consumers to drop scam mailings they have received into designated 'Scamnesty' bins or boxes at local libraries and public areas across the country.