Nearly one in five people (17.5%) aged 55 and over have been the victim of a financial scam, according to latest findings.

Investment scams promising high returns, copycat websites, and legitimate-sounding telephone calls are among the most common ways people have fallen victim to scams, according to a survey by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) found.

The survey of people aged 55-74 found that the majority (63%) who haven’t fallen victim to a scam are concerned about being targeted. A quarter (24%) of respondents said they knew someone who had fallen victim to a scam.

Separate research by Hargreaves Lansdown of 2,000 people found that around eight in 10, or 79%, of the over 55s have been approached by a scammer in the previous 12 months as the number of scams soared amid the pandemic.

Latest figures from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) show that there were 1,204 scam warnings in 2020 – double the number reported in 2019.

Caroline Rainbird, chief executive of the FSCS, said: “Scams are becoming more commonplace, better coordinated and harder to spot. We are helping to tackle scams where we can, for example by monitoring and reporting scams to the financial regulator, the FCA, but given the scale of the issue, consumers need to act as the first line of defence.

“By remaining vigilant and asking themselves, is the provider genuine, and is the person they’re speaking to who they say they are, consumers will be able to better protect themselves from this growing threat.”

Scammers often target people who may live alone or are more likely to answer the phone because they aren’t necessarily working full-time, if they are partially or fully retired.

Helen Morrissey, senior pensions and retirement analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “As we get older, we’re more and more confident we can spot a scam, but one in four people aged 55 and over would still be convinced by a criminal claiming to offer guaranteed returns of 10%. This is particularly worrying because this age group is most likely to be targeted by pension scammers.”

Get expert mortgage advice

Looking for mortgage advice? Book a free, no-obligation call with a Rest Less Mortgages expert or compare over 10,000 mortgage deals from 90+ lenders in minutes.

Get mortgage advice**

Seeking help to avoid scams

However, there is plenty of guidance that may prevent you from falling victim to a scam. Read our articles Don’t let scammers steal your retirement, Types of scams and how to avoid them, and Coronavirus scams to watch out for to understand more about different types of scams, and how to avoid them. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has a ScamSmart website with advice on how to avoid scams. If you are worried that a website or firm may be a scam, you can check the Financial Services Register to ensure that it is legitimate.

A new emergency hotline has also been launched for people to report scams as they happen, trialled by Stop Scams UK, a group of banks and telephone companies. If you receive a call or message from someone which you suspect is a scam suggesting money is transferred, hang up and call 159 to tell your bank.