The Trading Standards Institute (TSI) is urging scam victims to speak out to help stop the ever-growing wave of con artists.
A tide of mass marketed scams such as fake lottery wins is having a devastating effect on the lives of millions of people in the UK, warns TSI. It wants people to ‘turn them in and turn the tide’ during the Scams Awareness Month in May.
Unscrupulous scammers often target elderly or vulnerable adults, tricking them into revealing their bank details or paying upfront fees with the lure of huge rewards. Victims can find themselves on the receiving end of wave after wave of letters, emails and phone calls aimed at parting them from their cash.
And even after they realise they have been cheated out of their life savings, many people do not report the crime as they are too embarrassed to tell anyone.
The scammers are left free to carry on duping more and more victims, getting away with an estimated total of more than £73 billion* a year. The clear message from TSI as it launches Scams Awareness Month is ‘Turn them in and turn the tide’.
Working in partnership with Citizens Advice and Action Fraud – the national fraud and internet crime reporting and advice centre - trading standards teams across the country are encouraging anyone receiving scam mailings, or friends and family of anyone they believe is a victim of scam mailings, to speak up.
“The mailings received in this year’s ‘scamnesty’ will be analysed and the information shared with partner enforcement agencies in the UK and abroad. This will help us crack down on the senders and their networks, and enable us to help victims of scams directly, giving them tools to deal with this problem, ” said Louise Baxter, chair of the TSI Consumer Education Liaison Group, which is co-ordinating the campaign.
As scammers use ever more sophisticated tactics and materials, an increasing percentage of people targeted are falling victim to crime. The most common types of scam include fake lotteries, prize draws and sweepstakes, advance fees and money transfers, ticketing, home working and career opportunities, health and slimming miracles, pay in advance credit, and investment opportunities.
Peter Wilson, Director of Action Fraud, said: “An essential part of stopping fraudsters preying on vulnerable people is to make sure these incidents are reported to Action Fraud. Whether you’ve lost money or not, we want to know what’s happened. All information is good information when it comes to tracking down those responsible for the network of scams that continue to plague people, particularly the elderly, daily.”
Another important aim of May’s campaign is to help everyone recognise the warning signs and have the confidence to seek advice or simply reject approaches.
People with elderly or vulnerable relatives are being urged to be extra-vigilant. An increase in mail, unusual payments or bank transactions, or more incoming telephone calls than normal to a parent, grandparent or other vulnerable adultcould be a sign that scammers are at work.
Over the past few years, MyTunstall has been brining you crime and scam alerts, with the aim to give you that edge when you pick up the phone or open an email or letter. It's one of the main reasons for the site's creation and hopefully will carry on bringing you local and national alerts of scams.
Ron Gainsford, TSI Chief Executive, said: “Time and again we hear from trading standards of yet another of these distressing stories about vulnerable adults preyed upon by cruel, greedy people, and we fight to find ways to protect these victims. It is challenging because we cannot interfere with human rights and individual choices, but it is vital that we are all aware that such scams are taking place, and how, through the post and internet, they get into victims’ homes and lives.
- "The May edition of our house magazine, TS Today, features just such a case where thanks to a last minute trading standards intervention, an elderly victim wasn’t scammed out his house - the very roof over his head.
- “TSI supports the Think Jessica campaign run by Marilyn Baldwin, whose mother was scammed out of thousands.”
- Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said: “There are a lot of rogues and chancers looking to make a quick buck by ripping off others. It’s only by working together that we will crack down on these con artists and stamp out scams for good.
- “Anyone who thinks they have been a victim of a scam can get help from Citizens Advice, either by going to their local bureau or calling our consumer service phone line.”
People are also being encouraged to remember the following tips:
• 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.
• If you are unsure of an offer, speak to family or friends and seek advice before sending any money or giving out any banking or credit card details.
Scams can be reported to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or at www.actionfraud.police.uk or to the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 040506. During May, any suspicious letters can also be handed in at libraries in many areas.